Brown v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D1145a (Fla. 1st DCA May 22, 2013):  Defendant tried to fire his public defender (appointed counsel), claiming he had not done such and such.  The court conducted a Nelson inquiry and concluded that Brown alleged no reasonable basis for finding ineffective assistance to warrant discharging court-appointed counsel. Defense counsel specifically addressed all of Brown’s complaints and adequately explained counsel’s reasons for proceeding as he had done thus far.

Brown did not stop there.  He then demanded to represent himself, and the Florida criminal trial court  meticulously questioned and reminded Brown of his right to counsel, in what is called a Faretta inquiry (which has to be done before “critical stages” of the proceedings).  Brown denied the offer of counsel.  Throughout the trial, the judge repeatedly made the offer of counsel, but did not conduct a full-blown Faretta inquiry.  Brown repeatedly denied the offer, and represented himself all the way through the trial.

He lost.  Imagine that.

On appeal, Brown complained that the trial court had not made any inquiry into his mental and physical health at each stage of the proceedings, and that he should have done a full Faretta inquiry at each stage of the case, instead of just renewing the offer of counsel.  The Florida criminal appeal court held:

“Under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a criminal defendant is entitled to the aid of counsel, not only at trial, but prior to trial at critical periods of the proceedings.” Taylor v. State, 726 So. 2d 841, 843 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999) (citing Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45 (1932)). An accused also has the right to represent himself or herself. Kearse, 605 So. 2d at 537 (citing Faretta, 422 U.S. at 819). Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.111(d) addresses “Waiver of Counsel.”. . .

Therefore, “[w]hen a defendant indicates that he wishes to waive his right to counsel and represent himself, the trial court is obligated to conduct a Faretta inquiry to determine if he is knowingly and intelligently waiving his right to counsel and is ‘aware of the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation.’ ” Flowers v. State, 976 So. 2d 665, 666 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008) (citing Faretta, 422 U.S. at 835).

. . .

We find no basis in Brown’s cited cases, in rule 3.111(d), or in any other binding authority, indicating as a matter of law that jury selection is to be considered a separate, crucial stage from the rest of the trial for purposes of determining whether a renewed, full Faretta inquiry is necessary. A trial can be separated into many “stages,” including jury selection, opening statements, the presentation of evidence, closing argument, jury instructions, the verdict, and certain post-trial motions. Taken to its ultimate conclusion, Brown’s reasoning would require a renewed Faretta inquiry at the start of each and every component part of the trial. No such constitutional requirement exists.

So, as the old saying goes, a person who represents himself has a fool for a client.  The rule of law here is that once the judge makes the inquiry that the defendant is going into self-representation with “eyes wide open”, then that full inquiry is only to be repeated at “critical stages” of the proceedings.  What is cool about this opinion is that this is an appeal after a new trial was ordered – for the trial judge not having conducted a proper Faretta inquiry in the first trial!  The Florida criminal judge was not about to have that happen again.  This is a very, very well written opinion.

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