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State v. Prince

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

October 15, 2013

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Walter Jerry Prince, III, Appellant.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Ramsey County District Court File No. 62-CR-12-581.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Sara R. Grewing, St. Paul City Attorney, Tara K. Patet, Assistant City Attorney, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent).

David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Jennifer Lauermann, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant).

Considered and decided by Kirk, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Chutich, Judge.

KIRK, Judge.

On appeal from his conviction of violating a harassment restraining order, appellant Walter Jerry Prince, III, argues that the district court abused its discretion when it denied his request to waive counsel and represent himself. We affirm.

DECISION

A district court's denial of a defendant's self-representation request is reviewed under the clearly erroneous standard. State v. Christian, 657 N.W.2d 186, 190 (Minn. 2003). Criminal defendants have the right to represent themselves in state criminal proceedings under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. State v. Richards, 456 N.W.2d 260, 263 (Minn. 1990) (quoting Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 95 S.Ct. 2525 (1975)); see also Minn. Const. art. I §§ 6, 7. A defendant also has a corollary right to the assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Faretta, 422 U.S. at 819, 95 S.Ct. at 2533. The right of self-representation "embodies such bedrock concepts of individualism and personal autonomy that its deprivation is not amenable to harmless error analysis." Richards, 456 N.W.2d at 263.

A defendant must be personally free to decide whether or not it is in his best interest to retain counsel. Faretta, 422 U.S. at 834, 95 S.Ct. at 2541. When a defendant requests to represent himself, the district court must evaluate (1) whether his request is clear, unequivocal, and timely, and (2) whether the defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his right to counsel. Christian, 657 N.W.2d at 191 (citing Richards, 456 N.W.2d at 263).

In January 2012, the district court granted N.H. a harassment restraining order against appellant that prohibited him from entering or being within two city blocks of N.H.'s residence. After police found appellant in a van parked on the property of N.H.'s residence, he was charged with a misdemeanor. The district court appointed a public defender, and appellant entered a not guilty plea. At the request of appellant's attorney, the district court ordered a competency examination pursuant to Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 3.

Appellant completed a competency examination and a court-appointed psychiatrist deemed appellant competent to stand trial. At a competency hearing, the district court found appellant competent to stand trial on the basis of the competency examination. Appellant immediately requested permission to waive counsel and proceed pro se. The conversation between the district court and appellant went as follows:

[APPELLANT]: Um, I just thought it would be a really easy case. Um, I basically didn't plead guilty. I — I'd just like to proceed. I think it would make the process go a lot quicker, and I have nothing to hide. I'm just gonna — I would — all I would ...

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