May 13, 2008

A fistful of Faretta

From Minnesota Law Blog:

Public defender heroism in St. Louis County

It turns out we had a hero in our midst and most of us didn’t realize it. It is a little reminder... of the good work done by public defenders every day. In St. Louis County, public defender Mark Groettum was attacked by his client, who wrapped his arm around Groettum’s neck and punched him repeatedly in the face. Remarkably, the defendant then requested a new court-appointed lawyer...

Two consequences for such behavior (at least for Minnesota clients):

1. A criminal defendant forfeits his right to court-appointed counsel when he assaults his court-appointed attorney.

2. The district court does not violate due process by deciding, without an evidentiary hearing, that a criminal defendant has forfeited his right to court-appointed counsel when the defendant assaults his court-appointed attorney in the presence of the court...

PDF file of today's Minnesota Court of Appeals opinion in State v. Lehman here.

Minnesota Public Radio shares this colloquy from the trial transcript:

LEHMAN: Well, after what you have read, it seems to me most of them cases require repeated disruptions. That's one disruption.

JUDGE: I understand your position, and the one disruption was sufficient to cause the forfeiture based upon the vicious attack that you chose to engage in here against your attorney this morning.

LEHMAN: Aren't we assuming guilt there? Don't I have a right to a trial on that attack?

JUDGE: Ultimately you will, if there is charges filed, but you did commit the offense in the presence of the Court...

Update: perspective from a colleague who's been on the receiving end -
What protects the defender? A radical difference in rules