For someone who's declared his intention to never return to the United States, Roman Polanski is certainly keen on clearing his name in Los Angeles court. The 75-year-old film auteur (Repulsion, Chinatown, The Pianist) fled the country for voluntary European exile in 1978 after an L.A. judge indicated he was about to throw out a plea deal involving charges Polanski had sexual relations with a minor. Since then, a documentary film aired last year on HBO suggested judicial impropriety on the court's part, prompting Polanski to seek a dismissal of his case in late 2008.
A Catch-22 scenario worthy of Polanski's blackest comedies prevented the petition from going forward: Judge Peter Espinoza would not consider the motion unless Polanski was present in court — and, of course, the director would likely be arrested on the basis of a 31-year-old warrant the moment he set foot in Los Angeles. Today, however, the Associated Press' Linda Deutsch reports that Polanski's lawyers have filed an appeal in California.
Attorney Chad Hummel of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, is claiming that in his January ruling Espinoza erroneously relied upon the “fugitive disentitlement doctrine,” which says a fugitive like Polanski cannot seek redress in court while remaining at large.
According to AP, Hummel's appellate-court brief claimed, “That there were
clear violations of Mr. Polanski's constitutional rights is not
seriously in question,” and requested a dismissal of the old case
against Polanski or, at the very least, its reassignment to another
The ball is now in the court's court.