State v. Hightower

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 04-27-2017
  • Case #: S063924
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Landau, J. for the Court; En Banc.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under Article I, Section 11, of the Oregon Constitution, when a defendant attempts to exercise the right to self-representation in the midst of a trial, the exercise of that right is subject to the trial court's discretion.

Defendant appealed the Court of Appeals affirmation of the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motions for self-representation.  Defendant assigns error to the Court of Appeals determination that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that once the Defendant invoked his right to counsel he waived his right to self-representation.  Defendant argued that, as a matter of law, a trial court is required to grant a request for self-representation unless a defendant has engaged in “[d]eliberate and serious” interference with counsel’s representation or “serious misconduct that thwarts the progression of trial.”   State argued both that a defendant cannot assert his right of self-representation mid-trial, and even if a defendant could, that right should be denied here because Defendant previously exhibited disruptive behavior. “[B]y asserting the right to counsel, a defendant waives the right to self-representation. And, by waiving the right to counsel, a defendant necessarily asserts the right to self-representation.” However, “[n]othing prevents a defendant who has invoked the right to counsel or the right to self-representation from later waiving that right.” E.g., State v. Turnidge, 359 Or 364, 400, 374 P3d 853 (2016). Under Article I, Section 11, of the Oregon Constitution, when a defendant attempts to exercise the right to self-representation in the midst of a trial, the exercise of that right is subject to the trial court's discretion. The trial court must weigh the defendant’s right against the other interests at stake, including the constitutional obligation to preserve integrity and fairness and the court’s interest in ensuring orderly and expeditious trials. The Supreme Court held that the trial court abused its discretion because it denied Defendant’s motion for self-representation on the sole grounds Defendant asserted that right mid-trial. Therefore, the record did not demonstrate any exercise of discretion by the trial court. Reversed and remanded.

 

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