Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, First Division
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis. Hon.
Margaret M. Neill.
APPELLANT: Susan W. McGraugh, St. Louis University Legal
Clinic, St. Louis, MO.
RESPONDENT: Chris Koster, Attorney General, Daniel N.
McPherson, Asst. Attorney General, Jefferson City, MO.
G. DOWD, JR., JUDGE
M. Sanders appeals from the judgment entered on his
conviction for robbery in the second degree after a jury
trial. We affirm.
was charged with robbery in the first degree for a 2012 bank
robbery. He was determined competent to stand trial after a
psychiatric examination. Sanders chose to represent himself,
and standby counsel was appointed. According to the evidence
at trial--the sufficiency of which is not challenged on
appeal--Sanders walked into Lindell Bank and handed the
teller a note. The note stated that Sanders had a gun and
directed the teller to hand over all the money. The teller
handed Sanders the money, then Sanders took the note back and
left the bank. During this short interaction, Sanders had his
hands where the teller could not see them. Based on the note,
the teller assumed Sanders had a weapon. Sanders testified at
trial and admitted that he gave the teller a note and took
the money, but claimed he could not remember what the note
said and denied that he intended to hurt anyone or take the
money forcibly. The jury found Sanders guilty of the
lesser-included offense of robbery in the second degree, and
he was sentenced as a prior and persistent offender to 10
appeal, Sanders claims two errors relating to statements the
prosecutor made during voir dire: that the prosecutor's
reference to Sanders being in a subversive anti-government
organization was an impermissible reference to uncharged bad
acts and that the prosecutor's repeated comments about
Sanders's decision to proceed pro se violated his Sixth
Amendment right to represent himself. Neither claim has
after voir dire began, the prosecutor raised the issue of
Sanders's pro se status:
I think at this point it would make sense to talk about the
fact that the defendant is sitting here unrepresented or
without counsel at this point.
At this point, the defendant has chosen to proceed without an
attorney. He has chosen to proceed on his own behalf. And
because of that, he is going to be held to the same standards
that a lawyer would be held. He's going to be held to the
same rules. He's going to be held to the same--to be
expected to have the same knowledge as a lawyer.
Now there are many who I am sure are sitting there thinking,
that is a very bad idea. That is a terrible idea. Should not
proceed to trial without a lawyer. Absolutely. And that is a
fair statement. However, it is his absolute right to proceed
without counsel. If he wanted counsel and he hired counsel,
he could have it. If he wanted counsel and he could not
afford counsel, counsel would be appointed for him. He could
have a lawyer. He would have a lawyer if he wanted one.
prosecutor then pointed out that the court had appointed
standby counsel who would be there throughout the trial in
case Sanders changed his mind. Then he again pointed out
Sanders's " absolute right" to represent
himself, but clarified:
That does not affect my job as a prosecutor to bring forth
evidence. That does not affect your job as jurors to evaluate
the evidence fairly and make a decision based on what you
hear and see in court.
prosecutor then asked if anyone would have a hard time
finding someone guilty who had decided to represent himself.
One person responded that it was odd, and the prosecutor
agreed, but pointed out that the decision must be respected
nonetheless. The prosecutor also explained that the
State's burden of proof was the same regardless of
whether Sanders had an attorney or not. Another person said
the situation seemed unfair ...