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No new trial for defendant who discovered pitfalls of proceeding pro se

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A defendant’s request for a do-over after representing himself at trial and being found guilty was denied by the Indiana Court of Appeals with the admonishment “proceeding pro se is riddled with pitfalls.”

Adrian Jackson appealed his conviction on the grounds the trial court violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel because his decision to waive his right to counsel was not made knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently.

In Adrian Jackson v. State of Indiana, 49A01211-CR-553, the appeals court declined to disturb Jackson’s convictions, finding the trial court properly inquired into his request to go ahead pro se and provided him with sufficient advisements. The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.

“In this case, a criminal defendant asserted his constitutional right to self-representation but unfortunately discovered that proceeding pro se is riddled with pitfalls,” Judge John Baker wrote.

Following a jury trial, Jackson was found guilty of Counts I and II, Class B felony criminal confinement; Counts III, IV, and V, Class B felony robbery, and Counts VI and VII, Class C felony battery. He was sentenced to an aggregate of 30 years.

Jackson claimed he only waived his right to counsel because he did not want to be represented by his appointed counsel and that the trial court failed to appoint him alternative counsel.

The COA conceded trial courts have no specific “talking points” when advising a defendant about the dangers and disadvantages of proceeding without counsel. However, in Poynter v. State, 749 N.E.2d 1122, 1126 (Ind. 2001), the Indiana Supreme Court has adopted four factors for a trial court to consider when determining whether a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver has occurred.

The Court of Appeals examined whether the lower court provided Jackson with sufficient information about the pitfalls of self-representation; if the defendant had the background and experience necessary to make an informed decision; and if the context in which Jackson made his decision unduly influenced his actions.

Finding the trial court did meet the four Poynter factors, the COA concluded Jackson was not denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and the trial court properly determined his waiver was knowing, voluntary and intelligent.  
 

 

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