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Man entitled to warning that conduct may waive right to counsel

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed the finding that a man charged with murder is no longer indigent and that his difficult behavior caused him to waive or forfeit his right to appointed counsel. The appellate court concluded that the judge considered the defendant’s conduct, not his ability to pay, when finding him no longer indigent.

Stephen Gilmore was charged with murder in 2005. His first trial was declared a mistrial and he was able to post a cash bond. Gilmore received two court-appointed attorneys at that trial and expressed displeasure at the time with his attorneys, among other things.

When he was up for retrial in 2006, the two original attorneys filed a motion to withdraw representation, citing a major breakdown in the attorney-client relationship. Several other court-appointed attorneys, including one from another county, eventually filed motions to withdraw their appointments, citing major disagreements in trial strategy and breakdowns in communication. Gilmore continually requested a new court-appointed attorney after the previous ones had withdrawn.

In January 2009, the trial court decided to review Gilmore’s indigency status and found no changes, but in September 2010, the trial court issued an order finding he was no longer indigent. The judge also said he waived his right to counsel by his “obstreperous conduct.” The judge noted the cases raise the question of whether there are limits on one’s right to indigent counsel.

At the September 2010 hearing, the judge noted that Gilmore’s income from Social Security was in excess of Federal Poverty Guidelines, his home’s property was assessed at $54,000, and the attorney fees for his first trial were $21,000. But the judge went on to say that a court must also consider a defendant’s conduct and behavior when re-evaluating indigency.

The appellate court was troubled by this statement because “it indicates that the trial court based its indigency determination in whole or in part on its assessment of Gilmore’s conduct, not his financial condition. We have found no such requirement with regard to an indigency status determination,” wrote Judge James Kirsch in Stephen L. Gilmore v. State of Indiana, No. 40A01-1011-CR-553.

Having found that Gilmore’s assets and income were insufficient for him to afford to pay for his own attorney, the court can’t then reverse its decision without finding a change in circumstances since its earlier decision or determining the previous decision was an error, wrote the judge.

Regarding his right to court-appointed counsel, the COA agreed with the trial court that although a defendant has a right to an attorney, if indigent, he doesn’t have the right to abuse it. Gilmore’s conduct appears to be along the line of a waiver by conduct or forfeiture with knowledge. Because of this, he’s entitled to a hearing during which he should be warned that if his difficult behavior persists, the trial court will find he has chosen self-representation by his own conduct.

“While not condoning Gilmore’s apparent obstreperous conduct, because those warnings were not given to Gilmore, we conclude that the trial court erred by finding that Gilmore had waived his right to counsel,” he wrote.

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  • Well that's one side if this story...
    what about the other side--Mr. Gilmore's side? I understand that he has posted his side of the story, which apparently did not violate the comments policy, yet you removed his comments. Why? I think his comments help to round out the "mental picture" of this case...a case in which Mr. Gilmore has basically been railroaded from the beginning. He deserves to be heard.

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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