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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 Gilmore continually requested a new court-appointed attorney after the previous ones had withdrawn.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. Hello currently just withdrew from laporte county drug court and now I have lost the woman I love which also was in drugcourt and was put in jail without a,lawyer presentfor her own safety according to the judge and they told her she could have a hearing in two weeks and now going on 30days and still in jail no court date and her public defender talks like he,s bout to just sell her up the river.

  2. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  3. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  4. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  5. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

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