State v. Bean, No. 94-138

Docket NºNo. 94-138
Citation163 Vt. 457, 658 A.2d 940
Case DateMarch 31, 1995
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Vermont

Page 940

658 A.2d 940
163 Vt. 457
STATE of Vermont
Ronald BEAN.
No. 94-138.
Supreme Court of Vermont.
March 31, 1995.

Page 941

[163 Vt. 458] Peter R. Neary, Rutland County Deputy State's Atty., Rutland, for plaintiff-appellant.

Robert Appel, Defender Gen., and William A. Nelson, Appellate Defender, Montpelier, for defendant-appellee.

Before [163 Vt. 457] ALLEN, C.J., and GIBSON, DOOLEY, MORSE and JOHNSON, JJ.

[163 Vt. 458] DOOLEY, Justice.

The State of Vermont appeals an order of the Rutland District Court granting defendant

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Ronald Bean's motion to suppress [163 Vt. 459] incriminating statements and an attempted guilty plea made by defendant to the trial court during two hearings in which he was not represented by counsel. The State contends that the trial court erred in ruling that defendant did not knowingly and intelligently waive his right to counsel, as secured by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Chapter I, Article 10 of the Vermont Constitution, and, further, erred in suppressing the statements and guilty plea. We affirm.

On February 18, 1993, defendant was arrested for violating an abuse prevention order, and the next day, he was brought before the Rutland District Court pursuant to V.R.Cr.P. 5. The affidavit of the arresting officer expressed concern about defendant's mental health, noting that he had recently been in two psychiatric hospitals, that he said "he believes he is the reincarnation of Christ," and that he was talking of suicide to bring inner peace. Although defendant had talked with a public defender prior to his appearance, he rejected her representation. In response to questions from the judge, defendant stated that he had been denied use of the telephone to contact "my proper counsel," who practiced in another state. When asked whether he would like to represent himself, defendant answered, "For now, yes, sir." He would not sign a waiver, however, stating, "I am having a really hard time right now."

The court then proceeded to provide defendant the information required by V.R.Cr.P. 5(d), including that anything that defendant said "here can be used against you during prosecution of the case." The court stated:

If you don't wish to be arraigned today, you can wait until Monday, that would be the next arraignment day. You are allowed to speak with family and friends before entering a plea today.

The court asked defendant if he would like to read the information and affidavit. Once he had read the information and affidavit, defendant began asking questions and making statements about the charges and his rights. The court did nothing to stop defendant's questions or statements. In the course of his comments, defendant stated: "I know this can be used against me, I was planning on killing that woman that night." He described that he had an axe ready to split her head open, and wood ready to burn her body, but he could not get her to say anything "that I could kill her for." After some more comments by defendant, the court entered a pro forma not guilty plea for defendant,[163 Vt. 460] scheduled an arraignment for the following Monday, continued cash bail, and ordered a psychiatric examination of defendant.

On February 22, 1993, defendant appeared before the district court for arraignment. By this time, the State had added the charge of kidnapping to the charge of violating an abuse prevention order. Defendant stated he would not "go with this lawyer," referring to the public defender, and demanded "to go pro se." The court allowed defendant to proceed, and another rambling discussion ensued. Defendant first asked not to plead "until time of trial." At that point, the court entered a not guilty plea for defendant. When the court asked defendant whether he wanted to represent himself at all stages of the proceedings, defendant once again alluded to the out-of-state attorney with whom he had yet to consult, and stated that he wanted to leave open the option of obtaining an attorney. The court commented that obtaining an attorney was advisable due to the serious nature of the charges. Defendant then abruptly announced that he wanted to plead guilty to both charges. The trial court would not accept defendant's changed plea, and the proceeding ended.

The public defender subsequently assumed defendant's representation and moved to suppress the incriminating statements and the rejected guilty plea. 1 In an opinion dated

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January 30, 1994, the trial court granted the motion. The court ruled that defendant's waiver of the right to counsel was not knowing and intelligent on either of the occasions involved. Because defendant had not waived his right to counsel, the court found his statements could not be used against him. The State has taken an interlocutory appeal from this ruling as it affects the kidnapping charge. 2

We take the issues in the order they were decided by the trial court. The first issue is whether there was a valid waiver of the right to counsel. Both the Vermont and United States Constitutions provide an accused a right to counsel. See U.S. Const. amend. VI; Vt. [163 Vt. 461] Const. ch. I, art. 10. The right can be waived if the waiver is made knowingly and intelligently. See State v. Pollard, 163 Vt. 199, ----, 657 A.2d 185, 190 (1995). Waiver of this right will not be inferred from doubtful conduct, however, and courts will "indulge every reasonable presumption against waiver." In re Huard, 125 Vt. 189, 194, 212 A.2d 640, 644-45 (1965). In a series of cases stretching back thirty years, we have defined the necessary elements of a valid waiver of counsel. See State v. Pollard, 163 Vt. at ----, 657 A.2d at 190-91; State v. Lewis, 155 Vt. 653, 654, 586 A.2d 550, 551 (1990); State v. Merrill, 155 Vt. 422, 425-27, 584 A.2d 1129, 1131-32 (1990); State v. O'Connell, 147 Vt. 60, 64-66, 510 A.2d 167, 169-70 (1986); State v. Quintin, 143 Vt. 40, 43-44, 460 A.2d 458, 460-61 (1983); State v. Ahearn, 137 Vt. 253, 260-65, 403 A.2d 696, 700-04 (1979); State v. Hartman, 134 Vt. 64, 65-67, 349 A.2d 223, 224-25 (1975); In re Huard, 125 Vt. at 194-95, 212 A.2d at 644-45; In re Mears, 124 Vt. 131, 138-39, 198 A.2d 27, 32 (1964). The elements are provided in part by statute. See 13 V.S.A. § 5237. Normally, the elements must be shown by the record of the trial court proceedings, although in a relatively close case the record may be supplemented to show defendant's actual knowledge and understanding. See Merrill, 155 Vt. at 426, 584 A.2d at 1131-32.

The evidence supports the trial court's conclusion that there was not a knowing and intelligent waiver of counsel at either hearing. See In re Huard, 125 Vt. at 194, 212 A.2d at 644 (conclusion of trial court that there was no intelligent waiver upheld where supported by the evidence). At neither hearing was there an inquiry into defendant's experience, motives and understanding to determine the quality of the waiver. See Hartman, 134 Vt. at 66, 349 A.2d at 225. There was no attempt to explain the possible adverse consequences of waiver. See Ahearn, 137 Vt. at 262, 403 A.2d at 702. At both hearings, defendant's statements were inconsistent and often bizarre, indicating an inability to comprehend what was occurring. See State v. Pollard, 163 Vt. at ----, 657 A.2d at 188-90. Also, there was confusion at...

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9 cases
  • State v. Bean, No. 96-642.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • 20 October 2000
    ...counsel. An interlocutory appeal of that ruling to this Court resulted in an affirmance of the suppression order, see State v. Bean, 163 Vt. 457, 658 A.2d 940 (1995), and a delay of almost a year in the trial court. During the period that the case was on review in the Supreme Court, new cou......
  • State v. Peterson, No. 05-349.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • 6 April 2007
    ...unpersuasive. Id. at 183, 598 A.2d at 126. ¶ 23. Another thread in our exclusionary-rule jurisprudence is relevant here. In State v. Bean, 163 Vt. 457, 658 A.2d 940 (1995), the defendant attempted to plead guilty at his initial appearance before counsel was assigned and in the process made ......
  • State v. Gilman, No. 99-332.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • 9 November 2001 170. The suppression remedy is also consistent with our approach for other similar non-constitutional violations. In State v. Bean, 163 Vt. 457, 658 A.2d 940 (1995), the trial court violated V.R.Cr.P. 5(e) by going beyond the matters properly part of an initial appearance before defendan......
  • State v. Sheperd, No. 16-145.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • 2 June 2017
    ...was appropriate when "[n]oncompliance with the statute produced exactly the situation the Legislature sought to avoid"); State v. Bean, 163 Vt. 457, 465, 658 A.2d 940, 946 (1995) (holding that suppression was appropriate when "the consequences of the violation are exactly what the rule was ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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