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COA orders new trial for man who represented himself

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Finding a defendant did not knowingly or intelligently waive his right to counsel, the Indiana Court of Appeals Thursday ordered a new trial on strangulation and domestic battery charges.

In Timothy W. Parish v. State of Indiana, 64A03-1210-CR-438, Timothy Parish was arrested for strangling his live-in fiancée and her 9-year-old son during an argument. He was charged with two counts of Class D felony strangulation and one count of Class D felony domestic battery.

Parish was informed of his right to counsel at the initial hearing. He posted a surety bond and was released from jail. At another hearing, Parish told the court he wasn’t going to hire an attorney and the court didn’t inquire further about the decision to represent himself. Later, he wanted a public defender, so the court asked about his financial status. After learning that Parish owned his home and had around $130,000 equity in it, the judge denied appointing a public defender.

Parish was convicted as charged.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in denying Parish counsel at the public expense because Parish did not further explain to the court what his paycheck paid. He posted bond the same day it was set and later hired an attorney to represent him at sentencing.

But, the appeals court ruled, the trial court erred by not advising Parish of the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation. The judge made no inquiry into Parish’s decision to represent himself, only gave him one advisement that he was entitled to an attorney, and never investigated his educational background and legal experience.

“The facts and circumstances of this case do not warrant a knowing and intelligent waiver. The importance of the right to counsel cautions that trial courts should at a minimum reasonably inform defendants of the dangers and disadvantages of proceeding without counsel,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote.

 

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