The Third Department, reversing the convictions, determined defendant’s request to represent himself should have been granted:
At an apppearance on May 19, 2014, defendant’s counsel informed County Court (Drago, J.) that defendant wanted to represent himself at trial. The court duly inquired into defendant’s educational background, which included a GED earned in 2003, and engaged in an extensive colloquy with defendant emphasizing the importance of having counsel represent him. During this exchange, when asked to explain his decision, defendant gave the extraordinary response, “I don’t really have much explanation for it, just like I’ve been making bad choices, why not continue.” Defendant then illogically acknowledged this was a bad choice on his part. County Court understandably encouraged defendant to reconsider his decision, and directed that a transcript of the proceeding be provided to the trial judge who would make the decision on the application.
When the trial began on May 27, 2014, County Court (Catena, J.), having reviewed the transcript, directly addressed the representation issue with defendant. Defendant elaborated that he had decided to represent himself because he had been unrepresented for the “first seven months of incarceration” and felt he had “a better chance of representing [himself].” He continued, “So I feel like nobody’s going to fight for my life like I’m going to fight for it.” After confirming that assigned counsel was prepared to go forward, County Court denied defendant’s request to proceed pro se, reasoning that it would not be appropriate or a “wise choice” for defendant to do so. As understandable as that reasoning is, the issue is not whether defendant was making a prudent decision, but whether he had the capacity to knowingly waive his right to counsel … .While defendant’s initial extraordinary explanation raised a cause for concern, we conclude that his confirmation at trial demonstrates that he knowingly and unequivocally waived his right to counsel. Since defendant was improperly denied the right to proceed pro se, the judgment must be reversed and the matter remitted for a new trial … . People v Curry, 2017 NY Slip Op 05475, 3rd Dept 7-6-17
CRIMINAL LAW (DEFENDANT’S REQUEST TO REPRESENT HIMSELF SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED, NEW TRIAL ORDERED 3RD DEPT)/ATTORNEYS (CRIMINAL LAW, DEFENDANT’S REQUEST TO REPRESENT HIMSELF SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED, NEW TRIAL ORDERED 3RD DEPT)/RIGHT TO COUNSEL (CRIMINAL LAW, DEFENDANT’S REQUEST TO REPRESENT HIMSELF SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED, NEW TRIAL ORDERED 3RD DEPT)