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State v. Grant

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division

January 30, 2018

STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JUSTIN W. GRANT, Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF GREENE COUNTY Honorable Margaret Palmietto.

          DON E. BURRELL, JUDGE.

         Justin W. Grant ("Defendant") was convicted after a bench trial of the class-A misdemeanor of domestic assault in the third degree and sentenced to 180 days in jail.[1]In two points, Defendant claims the trial court: (1) "abused its discretion in overruling [Defendant]'s objections and admitting into evidence [his wife]'s out-of-court statements through the testimony of Officer Wright, because the admission of the statements violated [Defendant]'s right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against [Defendant]"; and (2) "erred in allowing [Defendant] to represent himself because this denied [Defendant] his rights to counsel and due process" in that Defendant's "purported waiver of counsel was not voluntary, unequivocal, knowing and intelligent[.]"

         Finding merit in Defendant's second claim, we must reverse his conviction and remand the matter for a new trial.

         Governing Law & Applicable Principles of Review

         "The burden to prove that a waiver of counsel is valid belongs to the state." City of St. Peters v. Hodak, 125 S.W.3d 892, 895 (Mo. App. E.D. 2004). "If the record does not disclose that the defendant's waiver of his right to counsel was a knowing and intelligent one, the presumption arises that it was not." State v. Davis, 934 S.W.2d 331, 334 (Mo. App. E.D. 1996). In determining whether a waiver of the right to counsel was made knowingly and intelligently, our review is de novo. State v. Johnson, 328 S.W.3d 385, 394 (Mo. App. E.D. 2010).

         Analysis

         Point 2-The Record Does Not Demonstrate that Defendant's Waiver of Right to Counsel Was Made Knowingly and Intelligently

         Because Defendant's second point is dispositive, we address it first. The Sixth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment guarantee the right to counsel in all criminal prosecutions. Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 339-42 (1963). However, a defendant may waive his right to counsel and proceed pro se. State v. Ehnes, 930 S.W.2d 441, 443 (Mo. App. S.D. 1996). Such a waiver must be: (1) timely; (2) unequivocal; (3) knowing; and (4) intelligent. State v. Black, 223 S.W.3d 149, 153 (Mo. banc 2007).

         A determination of whether a knowledgeable and intelligent waiver has been made must be supported by an inquiry conducted on the record so there is evidence demonstrating that the defendant understood the ramifications of the waiver. Hodak, 125 S.W.3d at 895. "Absent an inquiry on the record showing [that the d]efendant understood the ramification of the waiver of counsel, the imposition of jail time is unconstitutional." State v. Johnson, 172 S.W.3d 900, 902 (Mo. App. S.D. 2005).

         Under Missouri law, a defendant's waiver is not knowing and intelligent unless the court timely informs him as to the nature of the charges against him, potential sentence(s) if convicted, potential defenses he might offer, nature of the trial proceedings, and dangers of proceeding pro se. Hodak, 125 S.W.3d at 894. A defendant's knowledge of all relevant facts is not required, see State v. Gilmore, 697 S.W.2d 172, 174-75 (Mo. banc 1985), and "[w]hether a defendant's waiver is made knowingly and intelligently depends on the particular facts and circumstances surrounding the case, including the background, experience, and conduct of the accused." Black, 223 S.W.3d at 154.

         Here, the trial court received a written waiver of counsel form from Defendant. While section 600.051 allows a defendant to execute a written waiver of counsel, the State's burden of proving a knowing and intelligent waiver was not met simply because the trial court received and reviewed that form. See Hodak, 125 S.W.3d at 894. Upon receiving the waiver form, the trial court made the following inquiry regarding Defendant's decision:

Q: Do you understand that you have been charged with a Class A misdemeanor of domestic ...

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