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People v. Howell

Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Second Department
Aug 8, 1994
207 A.D.2d 412 (N.Y. App. Div. 1994)


August 8, 1994

Appeal from the County Court, Dutchess County (Aison, J.).

Ordered that the judgment is affirmed.

Before jury selection, the defendant told the court that he wished to replace his third court-appointed lawyer or to proceed pro se. After extensively warning the defendant of the dangers of proceeding pro se and attempting to discover the reason why the defendant wanted to replace his attorney, the court eventually permitted the defendant to proceed pro se.

The following day, however, on the eve of trial, the defendant told the court that he could not represent himself and again requested that new counsel be appointed. The defendant did not articulate any legitimate reason for replacing his third lawyer with yet another lawyer. The court refused to appoint a fourth lawyer, and offered the defendant a choice: he could proceed pro se or the court would recall the third lawyer to represent him. The defendant again stated that he would not consent to have this lawyer represent him. The defendant also refused the court's repeated offers to appoint this lawyer standby counsel to answer any questions the defendant had, and to act as his legal advisor.

Following a recess in the voir dire of the jury panel, the defendant refused to return from the holding cell to participate in jury selection. The court visited the defendant in the holding cell and, on the record, urged him to appear in the courtroom, and admonished him that the trial would proceed in his absence. The defendant steadfastly refused to appear, and also rejected the court's offer to supply him with video coverage of the trial. The trial proceeded, and the jury found the defendant guilty of all charges. We affirm.

The defendant had a constitutional right to proceed pro se (see, Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 835; People v. Sawyer, 57 N.Y.2d 12, 21, cert denied 459 U.S. 1178). We agree with the People that the court sufficiently warned the defendant of the dangers of proceeding pro se (see, People v. Sawyer, supra, at 12), and that the defendant was not entitled to have a fourth court-appointed attorney replace the third (see, People v Arroyave, 49 N.Y.2d 264, 271). It is well established that a defendant may not manipulate the right to counsel for purposes of delaying and disrupting the trial (Meyer v. Sargent, 854 F.2d 1110, 1113). Moreover, contrary to the defendant's contentions, we note that the court did not improperly exclude the defendant from the trial, rather it was the defendant who voluntarily refused to attend and thus forfeited his right to attend his trial (see, Taylor v. United States, 414 U.S. 17; People v Sanchez, 65 N.Y.2d 436, 443-444).

The assignment of standby counsel is "a matter of trial management", not a constitutional right (People v. Mirenda, 57 N.Y.2d 261, 266). It is true, as the defendant contends, that a court may appoint standby counsel over a defendant's objection (see, Faretta v. California, supra, at 835; People v. Sawyer, supra, at 22). However, under the circumstances of this case, including the defendant's vigorous insistence that he not be aided by standby counsel, and his continued explicit repudiation of such counsel, we find no fault with the court's actions.

We have examined the defendant's remaining contentions and find them to be without merit. Rosenblatt, J.P., Miller, Ritter and Santucci, JJ., concur.

Summaries of

People v. Howell

Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Second Department
Aug 8, 1994
207 A.D.2d 412 (N.Y. App. Div. 1994)
Case details for

People v. Howell

Case Details


Court:Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Second Department

Date published: Aug 8, 1994


207 A.D.2d 412 (N.Y. App. Div. 1994)
615 N.Y.S.2d 728

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