State v. Samuel, Appellate Case No. 2015-002401

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtJUSTICE HEARN
Citation813 S.E.2d 487,422 S.C. 596
Parties The STATE, Respondent, v. Lamont Antonio SAMUEL, Petitioner.
Docket NumberAppellate Case No. 2015-002401,Opinion No. 27768
Decision Date28 February 2018

422 S.C. 596
813 S.E.2d 487

The STATE, Respondent,
v.
Lamont Antonio SAMUEL, Petitioner.

Appellate Case No. 2015-002401
Opinion No. 27768

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Heard March 1, 2017
Filed February 28, 2018
Rehearing Denied May 25, 2018


Appellate Defender Robert M. Pachak, of Columbia, for Petitioner.

Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General J. Robert Bolchoz, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, Senior Assistant Attorney General W. Edgar Salter, III, all of Columbia, and Solicitor David Michael Pascoe, Jr., of Orangeburg, for Respondent.

JUSTICE HEARN :

813 S.E.2d 489
422 S.C. 599

In this case we clarify the proper scope of a circuit judge's inquiry under Faretta1 when a criminal defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waives his right to counsel and requests to proceed pro se . Prior to his trial for murder, Lamont Antonio Samuel moved to represent himself under Faretta . The circuit judge denied his motion, finding Samuel was lying about whether he had or would have access to legal coaching in preparation for trial. The court of appeals affirmed. State v. Samuel , 414 S.C. 206, 777 S.E.2d 398 (Ct. App. 2015). We now reverse.

FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Samuel was indicted for the murder of his cousin, Taneris Hamilton. On the day his case was called to trial, Samuel indicated he was dissatisfied with defense counsel and made a Faretta motion to waive his right to counsel and proceed pro se . The circuit judge then properly initiated an ex parte hearing to discuss Samuel's Faretta motion with him.

Samuel informed the court that he was twenty-one years old and had graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA in all honors classes with hopes of enlisting in the Navy as a diesel mechanic. Additionally, Samuel affirmed he understood he was charged with murder and was aware of the elements of the crime. He realized he could be sentenced to at least thirty years in prison, with a maximum possible sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Samuel also indicated he had never been treated for drug or alcohol abuse, nor had he received assistance for mental or emotional health issues. Moreover, he had not taken any medication, drugs, or alcohol in the previous seventy-two hours. The judge noted she found Samuel to be "incredibly articulate" and "exceptionally bright;" nevertheless, she repeatedly told Samuel she had misgivings about his self-representation. Samuel thanked the judge for her advice, but reiterated his request to proceed pro se .

The circuit judge then inquired as to whether Samuel had any legal training. He responded that he had been studying

422 S.C. 600

trial procedures in the Criminal Law Handbook, which he had received in the mail while in prison. Samuel testified that his mother had sent him the book upon the advice of attorney Carl Grant. The circuit judge further questioned whether Samuel was familiar with the rules of evidence, motions in limine , and motions for directed verdict. Samuel affirmed that he was, based upon his study of the Criminal Law Handbook and coaching he had received from Grant. He also acknowledged he would be required to follow the rules of evidence if he were to represent himself, and that he had the right not to testify under the Fifth Amendment. Finally, the circuit judge asked Samuel if he was aware of any possible defenses he might have to the charge against him and, following some prompting questions by the judge, he acknowledged his intent to maintain his innocence based upon his co-defendant's alleged confession.

Rather than concluding the Faretta colloquy, the circuit judge continued to caution Samuel against representing himself, stating in her opinion Samuel would be far better defended by a trained lawyer, it would be unwise of him to waive his right to counsel, and she did not believe he was sufficiently familiar with the law, procedure, or rules of evidence to adequately represent himself. Despite the judge's warnings and in light of the potential penalties he faced, Samuel voluntarily reaffirmed his desire to dispense with the assistance of counsel and proceed pro se .

Nevertheless, the circuit judge continued her attempts to dissuade Samuel, asking "Do you know anything or anyone that I can have you speak with that might urge you to have a lawyer represent you?" Samuel responded,

No, ma'am.... I mean, my mama, basically paid Mr. Grant a good bit amount [sic] of money. The reason why he couldn't represent me is because ... his paralegal is
813 S.E.2d 490
related, you know, in some manner. So he had decided to just go over the steps with me day by day. I go through the trial, I got back to him. I talk to him, he'll tell me things or he won't—he's not going to be in the courtroom, present.... I know he's not representing me, but he is coaching me on—.

The circuit judge then stated, "You're bright enough, educated enough.... You don't have a problem that I'm aware of that I

422 S.C. 601

can use, in all candor, to keep you from representing yourself." However, instead of ruling on Samuel's motion at that point, the circuit judge summoned Grant to question him on his relationship with Samuel. Nonetheless, prior to Grant's arrival, the judge stated on the record that her inclination was to allow Samuel to represent himself.

Upon his arrival, Grant testified as follows:

I have no recollection of ever sharing with Ms. Betty Hickson, [Samuel's] mother, anything pertaining to any rules of evidence or rules in criminal procedure or anything like that.... The only discussion has been about the legal fees to represent this young man.... Also, I've not been retained.... I've not offered any assistance to anyone, Judge. I've not even given this young man any kind of copy of the rules of evidence or rules of criminal procedure or offered my assistance in any way.... [A]s far as my offering any assistance to him, Judge, number one, if he's representing himself I would not be available to provide any assistance to him in any capacity.

After hearing Grant's testimony, the circuit judge denied Samuel's request to proceed pro se citing Rule 3.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct2 and Gardner v. State , 351 S.C. 407, 412–13, 570 S.E.2d 184, 186–87 (2002) (including whether a defendant is attempting to delay or manipulate the proceedings as one of ten factors courts can consider when determining if a defendant "has a sufficient background to understand the dangers of self-representation"). Specifically, the circuit judge interpreted Samuel's and Grant's conflicting testimony to mean Samuel was lying to her and attempting to manipulate the proceedings.

422 S.C. 602

Thereafter, Samuel proceeded to trial with his counsel and was found guilty and sentenced to fifty years imprisonment. He appealed his conviction, asserting the circuit judge erred in denying his right to self-representation, and the court of appeals affirmed. Samuel , 414 S.C. at 213, 777 S.E.2d at 402. This Court granted Samuel a writ of certiorari to review the court of appeals' opinion.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Whether a defendant has knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his right to counsel is a mixed question of law and fact which appellate courts review de novo. United States v. Lopez-Osuna , 242 F.3d 1191, 1198 (9th Cir. 2000). Specifically, we review a circuit judge's findings of historical fact for clear error; however, we review the denial of the right of self-representation based upon those findings of fact de novo. United States v. Bush , 404 F.3d 263, 270 (4th Cir. 2005). In doing so, this Court must consider the defendant's testimony, history, and the circumstances of his decision, as presented to the circuit judge at the time the defendant made his request. United States v. Singleton , 107 F.3d 1091, 1097 (4th Cir. 1997).

LAW/ANALYSIS

Through counsel, Samuel now argues the court of appeals erred in affirming the circuit judge's denial of his Faretta motion to proceed pro se . In particular, Samuel contends the circuit judge impermissibly exceeded the scope of the Faretta inquiry by considering

813 S.E.2d 491

Grant's testimony to conclude that Samuel was attempting to manipulate the proceedings, thereby precluding him from proceeding pro se . We agree.

In Faretta , the United States Supreme Court held that criminal defendants have a fundamental right to self-representation under the Sixth Amendment. 422 U.S. at 819–21, 95 S.Ct. 2525. In order to effectively invoke this right of self-representation, the defendant must clearly and unequivocally assert his desire to proceed pro se and such request must be made knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily. United States v. Frazier-El , 204 F.3d 553, 558 (4th Cir. 2000). Where a defendant

422 S.C. 603

invokes his...

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56 practice notes
  • Stoney v. Stoney, Appellate Case No. 2011-203410
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • August 29, 2018
    ...or procedural rulings, which [our appellate courts] review using an abuse of discretion standard." Stoney , 422 S.C. at 595 n.2, 813 S.E.2d at 487 n.2.2 Husband produced neither the original nor a signed copy of the prenuptial agreement; however, he did include a copy of an unsigned prenupt......
  • Taylor v. Taylor, Appellate Case No. 2017-001816
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • July 7, 2021
    ...Parents agreed to alter the Thanksgiving rotation such that Father was entitled to the entire 2016 Thanksgiving holiday. See Stoney , 422 S.C. at 596, 813 S.E.2d at 487 (providing that appellate courts exercise de novo review of the family court's factual and legal findings); Lewis , 392 S.......
  • Choudhry v. Sinha, 2020-UP-262
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • September 9, 2020
    ...because Father admitted he never paid child support even though the court ordered him to do so. See Stoney I, 422 S.C. at 595-96, 813 S.E.2d at 487 (stating an appellate court reviews the family court's factual and legal issues de novo); Stoney v. Stoney (Stoney II), 425 S.C. 47, 76, 819 S.......
  • Choudhry v. Sinha, 2020-UP-262
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • December 16, 2020
    ...because Father admitted he never paid child support even though the court ordered him to do so. See Stoney I, 422 S.C. at 595-96, 813 S.E.2d at 487 (stating an appellate court reviews the family court's factual and legal issues de novo); Stoney v. Stoney (Stoney II), 425 S.C. 47, 76, 819 S.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
56 cases
  • Stoney v. Stoney, Appellate Case No. 2011-203410
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • August 29, 2018
    ...or procedural rulings, which [our appellate courts] review using an abuse of discretion standard." Stoney , 422 S.C. at 595 n.2, 813 S.E.2d at 487 n.2.2 Husband produced neither the original nor a signed copy of the prenuptial agreement; however, he did include a copy of an unsigned prenupt......
  • Taylor v. Taylor, Appellate Case No. 2017-001816
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • July 7, 2021
    ...Parents agreed to alter the Thanksgiving rotation such that Father was entitled to the entire 2016 Thanksgiving holiday. See Stoney , 422 S.C. at 596, 813 S.E.2d at 487 (providing that appellate courts exercise de novo review of the family court's factual and legal findings); Lewis , 392 S.......
  • Choudhry v. Sinha, 2020-UP-262
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • September 9, 2020
    ...because Father admitted he never paid child support even though the court ordered him to do so. See Stoney I, 422 S.C. at 595-96, 813 S.E.2d at 487 (stating an appellate court reviews the family court's factual and legal issues de novo); Stoney v. Stoney (Stoney II), 425 S.C. 47, 76, 819 S.......
  • Choudhry v. Sinha, 2020-UP-262
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • December 16, 2020
    ...because Father admitted he never paid child support even though the court ordered him to do so. See Stoney I, 422 S.C. at 595-96, 813 S.E.2d at 487 (stating an appellate court reviews the family court's factual and legal issues de novo); Stoney v. Stoney (Stoney II), 425 S.C. 47, 76, 819 S.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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