State v. Hightower

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 12-09-2015
  • Case #: A154220
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Sercombe, P.J. for the Court; Hadlock, J.; & Tookey, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under Article I, section 11, of the Oregon Constitution, and State v. Blanchard, a defendant’s right to waive counsel may be limited where the defendant is unclear or equivocal or if granting the request to waive counsel will be disruptive to the orderly conduct of trial.

Defendant was convicted of multiple counts involving sex abuse and prostitution, and had a court-appointed defense attorney. Defendant had a contentious relationship with his court-appointed attorney moved for substitution of counsel three times during the trial, primarily regarding trial strategy. Defendant disrupted the trial proceedings several times despite warnings he would be removed from the courtroom if he continued. Defendant’s attorney argued Defendant should be allowed to continue pro se but the court disagreed and Defendant’s attorney stayed on for the remainder of trial. On appeal, Defendant argued the trial court erred in denying him the right to proceed pro se because it did not find on the record that granting the request would be disruptive. Under Article I, section 11, of the Oregon Constitution, a Defendant’s right to proceed pro se is not unlimited, but requires a defendant to make the intelligent and understanding decision to waive counsel, and a request to waive counsel may be denied “if it is unclear or unequivocal or if granting the request will result in the disruption of the orderly conduct of the trial.” State v. Blanchard, 236 Or 472 (2010). The Court held the trial court implicitly found allowing Defendant to represent himself would have been disruptive to the orderly conduct of trial and did not abuse its discretion, specifically because Defendant wanted to put on irrelevant evidence that would have confused the jury. Affirmed.

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