765 N.W.2d 134 (Minn.App. 2009), A08-0616, State v. Paige

Docket Nº:A08-0616.
Citation:765 N.W.2d 134
Opinion Judge:HUDSON, Judge.
Party Name:STATE of Minnesota, Respondent, v. Taporius Dywann PAIGE, Appellant.
Attorney:Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, MN; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Thomas A. Weist, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, MN, for respondent. Lawrence Hammerling, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Michael W. Kunkel, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota, for...
Judge Panel:Considered and decided by CONNOLLY, Presiding Judge; HUDSON, Judge; and RANDALL, Judge.[*]
Case Date:May 12, 2009
Court:Court of Appeals of Minnesota
 
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Page 134

765 N.W.2d 134 (Minn.App. 2009)

STATE of Minnesota, Respondent,

v.

Taporius Dywann PAIGE, Appellant.

No. A08-0616.

Court of Appeals of Minnesota.

May 12, 2009

Page 135

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 136

Syllabus by the Court

When a criminal defendant makes a request to discharge counsel, the district court is required to determine how the defendant intends to proceed upon the discharge of counsel and whether it is appropriate for the defendant to proceed as intended.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, MN; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Thomas A. Weist, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, MN, for respondent.

Lawrence Hammerling, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Michael W. Kunkel, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

Considered and decided by CONNOLLY, Presiding Judge; HUDSON, Judge; and RANDALL, Judge.[*]

OPINION

HUDSON, Judge.

On appeal from the denial of his request to withdraw his guilty plea, appellant argues that the district court applied the wrong legal standard to his request to discharge counsel, which resulted in the absence of adequate representation at his plea-withdrawal hearing. We agree and remand.

FACTS

On February 15, 2007, appellant Taporius Dywann Paige was indicted by a Hennepin County grand jury for one count of first-degree murder in violation of Minn.Stat. § 609.185(a)(1) (2006); one count of first-degree murder in violation of Minn.Stat. § 609.185(a)(3) (2006); one count of second-degree murder in violation of Minn.Stat. § 609.19, subd. 1(2) (2006); and two counts of drive-by shooting in violation of Minn.Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1e(b) (2006). Appellant was initially represented by a public defender, but appellant replaced the public defender with private counsel. While represented by private counsel, appellant pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. The state dismissed the remaining charges.

On November 26, 2007, appellant wrote a pro se letter to the district court indicating that he wanted to be " brought

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back" before the district court to withdraw his plea and " fire" his private counsel. Appellant alleged that he pleaded guilty only because of his counsel's " verbal coercion and persuasion." He also claimed that his counsel " didn't do anything to help [appellant] or exonerate [his] name." In response, appellant's counsel moved the district court to withdraw as appellant's attorney.

A hearing on appellant's request to discharge counsel was held on January 3, 2008, five days before appellant was to be sentenced on the second-degree murder conviction. The district court said that the purpose of the hearing was to " understand on the record what [appellant's] wishes are" and that the court was " not hearing any motion today." Appellant attempted to state that he wanted to discharge counsel for ineffective assistance, but before appellant could finish his statement, the district court asked appellant if he had another attorney. When appellant indicated that he did not have another attorney, the district court recited to appellant Minn. Gen. R. Pract. 703, which states that " [o]nce a lawyer has filed a certificate of representation, that lawyer cannot withdraw from the case until all proceedings have been completed, except upon written order of the court pursuant to a written motion, or upon written substitution of counsel approved by the court ex parte."

The district court then told appellant that " [b]ecause of the status of these proceedings, that you have already pleaded guilty and that the sentence is scheduled, I cannot take any action today on anything unless you have another lawyer ready, willing, and able to file a certificate of representation and be substituted for [current counsel]." The district court continued, saying,

So, if you believe you have another lawyer, that would be the appropriate thing to do, or if you don't have another lawyer and you still wish to proceed along these lines, you could re-apply for a public defender. But at this point there's no reason not to proceed to the sentencing which is scheduled for Tuesday, January 8.

The district court took no further action on appellant's request to discharge counsel.

Appellant did not retain another lawyer and was represented by the same private counsel at the January 8, 2008, sentencing/plea-withdrawal hearing. Appellant's counsel made no argument at the hearing and filed no motions on appellant's behalf. Instead, counsel stated,

[M]y concern is that [appellant] sent a letter to the Court ... indicating that he was going to obtain new counsel and was going to I guess discharge me as his attorney. And the basis for the new attorney was to withdraw his plea, so my hands have been tied a little bit in terms of what I can and cannot do, or what I feel comfortable with in terms of [appellant]. We've certainly had several discussions. He's indicated that he wants to withdraw his plea. As of this time no one has approached me in terms of the representation and, as I said, it's my understanding that [appellant's] basis is going to be ineffective assistance of counsel, so I'm a little bit in a difficult position in terms of what I can and can't do in this case.

The district court denied appellant's request to withdraw his plea, finding that the plea was fair and entered into voluntarily and intentionally. The district court also held that appellant had not " established any fair or just reason to...

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