People v. Henriquez

Citation3 N.Y.3d 210,818 N.E.2d 1125,785 N.Y.S.2d 384
Decision Date19 October 2004
CourtNew York Court of Appeals

Legal Aid Society Criminal Appeals Bureau, New York City (Allen Fallek and Laura R. Johnson of counsel), for appellant.

Robert T. Johnson, District Attorney, Bronx (Peter D. Coddington of counsel), for respondent. Chief Judge KAYE and Judges CIPARICK, ROSENBLATT, READ and R.S. SMITH concur with Judge GRAFFEO; Judge G.B. SMITH dissents and votes to reverse and order a new trial in a separate opinion.



The issue in this case is whether Supreme Court violated defendant's Sixth Amendment rights by allowing a trial to proceed after defendant refused to permit his assigned counsel to participate in his defense and defendant declined to represent himself. Under the circumstances of this case, we conclude that the court did not violate defendant's right to a fair trial.

In March 1994, defendant Michael Henriquez approached a police car and informed an officer that he had just killed his paramour. Police officers who arrived at defendant's residence found the victim dead from numerous gunshot wounds to her head. After he was taken to a police station for questioning, defendant provided detailed written and videotaped statements in which he confessed to shooting his girlfriend multiple times in the presence of their infant daughter. Defendant was subsequently charged with intentional murder in the second degree, illegal weapon possession and endangering the welfare of a child.

Huntley and Sandoval hearings were conducted prior to trial. Defendant's assigned counsel participated in those proceedings, securing the suppression of a statement by defendant on the basis that the prosecution failed to provide notice as required by CPL 710.30. During jury selection defense counsel questioned prospective jurors while defendant elected to be absent. Defendant returned to the courtroom for defense challenges to certain venire members.

Before opening statements were presented, defense counsel informed the trial judge that:

"defendant advised me this morning that . . . he is directing me not to cross-examine any witnesses, not to object to any line of questioning, not to . . . approach the bench, not to participate in any bench conferences or side bars, not to have any defense in this case, not to call any witnesses, not to sum up, not to do anything.
"He has indicated to me he just wants me to sit here and do nothing."

As a result of defendant's demands, counsel asked to be relieved of his assignment and requested that defendant be permitted to represent himself.

Defendant, however, indicated that he did not wish to proceed pro se. He declared, "I didn't ask to represent myself. You can't tell me I have to represent myself." The court confirmed the accuracy of defense counsel's recitation of defendant's commands and advised defendant that he did not have to act as his own attorney.

In response to further inquiry by the trial judge, defendant acknowledged that he had the right to make an opening statement, cross-examine the People's witnesses, testify on his own behalf, call witnesses and object to impermissible questioning by the prosecutor. Defendant also stated that he had discussed possible defenses with his lawyer and understood that they would not be presented to the jury if his attorney remained mute. Despite the court's attempt to convince defendant that he was "foolish[ly]" waiving many "very important rights," defendant steadfastly refused to accept the participation of his counsel in trial proceedings. Faced with defendant's obstinancy in rejecting his attorney's participation while refusing to proceed pro se, the court denied defense counsel's application to withdraw and instructed him to remain available during the proceedings in the event defendant changed his mind and decided to consult with him or present a defense.

When an issue arose concerning the possible substitution of a juror, defense counsel advised the court that defendant would not allow him to provide any input on the matter and that the trial judge should act as he saw fit. Defendant also refused to take any position or allow counsel to comment on the court's proposed preliminary jury instructions at the outset of trial. Defense counsel renewed his application to be relieved, which the court denied by reiterating that counsel was expected to be ready to present a defense if defendant wished to do so. Before the jury was brought into the courtroom for opening statements, defendant reasserted that he was opting not to present a defense and was "not going to change [his] mind."

Defendant did not make an opening statement to the jury. Prior to the People presenting testimony, the court again secured defendant's "understand[ing]" that he was "free" to "change [his] mind" and allow his attorney "to make objections . .. or otherwise participate in the trial." Defendant did not do so and, therefore, his lawyer did not cross-examine the People's first witness.

The prosecutor then informed the court that he intended to introduce into evidence certain crime scene photographs and the murder weapon. Defendant told his counsel not to object. Two additional witnesses testified for the People without cross-examination by the defense. Before the next prosecution witness took the stand, defense counsel objected because the witness had been seated in the courtroom during the testimony of the earlier witnesses. In response to the court's concern that the objection had been raised without defendant's permission, counsel conferred with defendant and withdrew the objection. When adjourning for the evening, the court again urged defendant to reconsider how he was proceeding in the case.

The next morning, defendant stated that he was aware that he could change his mind to allow his attorney to participate in the proceedings, but he insisted that counsel do nothing. When the People rested, both defendant and his attorney indicated that defendant had instructed counsel not to call any witnesses or make any motions on defendant's behalf. Although the court advised defendant that the affirmative defense of extreme emotional disturbance was available to him, defendant refused to seek a jury instruction related to that defense. Defendant declined to comment on jury instructions, telling the court to instruct the jury in whatever manner it deemed appropriate. No summation was presented on behalf of defendant. Nor did defendant object to any of the instructions given by the court to the jury before its deliberations.

The jury found defendant guilty of intentional murder in the second degree and other crimes. The Appellate Division upheld the conviction, concluding that defendant, after being consistently warned by the trial court about the pitfalls of his conduct, knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waived his rights to present a defense, cross-examine or call witnesses, or testify on his own behalf. A Judge of this Court granted leave to appeal. We now affirm.

Defendant asserts that his constitutional right to a fair trial was violated because the trial court and defense counsel respected his desire to refrain from presenting a defense. This argument is premised on defendant's claim that he neither waived nor forfeited his Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel. Defendant therefore contends that his attorney was ethically obligated to mount a defense and the trial court, by allowing counsel to remain mute, failed to insure that defendant's guilt be determined only after an adversarial proceeding.

The constitutional guarantee to due process of law provides criminal defendants with "the fundamental right to a fair trial" (Strickland v Washington, 466 US 668, 684 [1984]). The essential elements of this right are defined primarily by the Sixth Amendment:

"[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury .. . and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."

With respect to an accused's right to counsel, "[t]he right of any defendant . . . to stand before a court with counsel at his side to safeguard both his substantive and procedural rights is inviolable and fundamental to our form of justice" (People v Settles, 46 NY2d 154, 161 [1978]; see People v Felder, 47 NY2d 287, 295-296 [1979]

). Thus, an accused who requests legal representation cannot be forced to stand trial without the services of an attorney (see e.g. Gideon v Wainwright, 372 US 335, 344 [1963]; Powell v Alabama, 287 US 45, 71 [1932]).

It is also firmly established that, because "[t]he right to defend is given directly to the accused" (Faretta v California, 422 US 806, 819-820 [1975]), "the Constitution does not force a lawyer upon a defendant" (Adams v United States ex rel. McCann, 317 US 269, 279 [1942]; see People v McIntyre, 36 NY2d 10, 17 [1974]

; People v Bodie, 16 NY2d 275, 279 [1965]). And "[w]hile the Sixth Amendment and the State Constitution afford a defendant the right to counsel or to self-representation, they do not guarantee a right to both. These are `separate rights depicted on the opposite sides of the same [constitutional] coin'" (People v Rodriguez, 95 NY2d 497, 501 [2000], quoting United States v Purnett, 910 F2d 51, 54 [2d Cir 1990]). An accused awaiting trial therefore has only two choices regarding legal representation — proceed with counsel or waive the protection of the Sixth Amendment and proceed pro se.

In this case, the trial court was confronted with a defendant attempting to abuse the process. Despite defendant's refusals to allow his counsel to...

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    ...under Strickland, Page 388 the defendant affirmatively must prove prejudice in addition to deficient performance. See People v. Henriquez, 3 N.Y.3d 210, 230, 785 N.Y.S.2d 384, 818 N.E.2d 1125 (N.Y.2004) ("One major difference between the New York standard and the standard announced in Stric......
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    ...guarantee to due process of law provides criminal defendants with ‘the fundamental right to a fair trial’ ” ( People v. Henriquez, 3 N.Y.3d 210, 214, 785 N.Y.S.2d 384, 818 N.E.2d 1125, quoting Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 684, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674). Indeed, the right of......
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