Denial of last-minute public defender request upheld

A man who was convicted of domestic battery after being denied his request for a public defender has failed to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that his 11th-hour request for counsel should have been granted.

Quintin Davis’ Class A misdemeanor conviction was affirmed Wednesday in Quintin D.E. Davis v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-631. Davis and his girlfriend, L.W., had gotten into a fight over who could have the last bottle of Pepsi in their home, leading to L.W. spilling the Pepsi and Davis taking L.W.’s bag of Skittles and smashing her phone into the side of the bed. L.W. wanted to leave after that, but Davis apologized and allowed L.W. to break his phone in retaliation.

The next morning, L.W. was preparing to move out when Davis took her cigarettes, prompting another argument. This time, Davis pushed L.W. onto her 2-year-old son, then pinned her down and began hitting her in the face. L.W.’s daughter witnessed the altercation and was crying.

L.W. called police, but the two then resumed their fight, with Davis breaking L.W.’s laptop and L.W. falling onto a glass table. When officers arrived, Davis cursed at them, balled his fists and didn’t comply with their orders.

Davis was charged with three counts, including felony battery against a public safety officer and misdemeanor counts of domestic battery and resisting law enforcement. He told the Delaware Circuit Court in January 2018 that he intended to represent himself, and after a hearing the trial court found him competent to proceed pro se.

Davis later selected a Jan. 24, 2019, trial date, but after the state began presenting evidence, he moved for a recess, claimed he didn’t know he was going to be in trial that day and asked for a public defender. The trial court denied his request, noting L.W. had flown in from California to be present at the trial, then found him guilty on the domestic battery charge.

Davis argued on appeal that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his request for a public defender, but the Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed. Relying on Koehler v. State, 499 N.E.2d 196 (Ind. 1986), Judge Patricia Riley said Davis had been “fully advised” of the difficulties of proceeding pro se a full year before his trial, and he did not waver in his decision to proceed pro se until the day of trial.

“Granting Davis’ request would most likely have resulted in a substantial continuance in order for counsel to get familiar with the facts of the case and would have required additional sacrifice from the victim who would have to make an additional trip to Indiana,” Riley wrote. “Although Davis relies on the trial court’s statement that he could request an attorney ‘at any time’ to support his contention that he should have been assigned an attorney midway through the bench trial, the trial court tempered that broad statement with the qualifier that Davis had to send the court ‘a letter or a motion.’”

“… Despite the trial court’s denial of his request for counsel, Davis effectively defended against the charges pro se,” Riley continued. “Not only did he manage to impeach the victim during cross-examination, but he also was found not guilty on two of the three charges the State brought against him.”

Thus, the appellate panel concluded the trial court did not err in denying Davis’ request for counsel.

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