State v. Williams

Decision Date14 April 1987
Docket NumberNo. 13023,13023
Citation523 A.2d 1284,203 Conn. 159
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Randy W. WILLIAMS.

Kenneth Rosenthal, Asst. Public Defender, and Richard Emanuel, Bridgeport, with whom, on the brief, was Donald D. Dakers, Public Defender, for appellant (defendant).

Robert J. Devlin, Jr., Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, was Arnold Markle, State's Atty., for appellee (state).


PETERS, Chief Justice.

The principal issue on this criminal appeal is the defendant's claim that the trial court failed to secure his knowing and intelligent waiver of the right to be represented by an attorney free from conflicts of interest. The defendant, Randy Williams, was charged by substitute information with the crimes of robbery in the first degree, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-134(a)(3), 1 and burglary in the first degree, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-101(a)(1). 2 After trial to a jury, he was found guilty on both counts and sentenced to two concurrent sentences of twenty years, execution suspended after ten years. The defendant appeals from this judgment of conviction. We find no error.

The jury could reasonably have found the following facts. At the time of the incident, the victim, a thirty-one year old woman, was staying as a guest at an apartment on Lake Place in New Haven. Just before 4 p.m. on January 24, 1985, the victim returned to the apartment from food shopping. While she was bringing her groceries into the first floor apartment, she saw a man knocking on the door of the apartment across the hall. The victim told the man that the occupant of the other apartment would not be home from work until 4 p.m. She then went back outside to retrieve her child, whom she had left in a stroller. While bringing the stroller inside the building, she heard a sound from inside the apartment across the hall. She told the man that it sounded as if the occupants were home. She then entered her apartment, pulling the stroller after her. The man followed her inside and closed the door behind him. He displayed a knife and reached around the stroller to grab the victim's pocketbook from a couch. He then ran out of the apartment and into the street.

Following the robbery the victim immediately called the New Haven police. A short time later, when police had arrived at the apartment, she described the robber as a black man, twenty to twenty-five years old, approximately six feet tall, with a thin mustache, a somewhat muscular build, and a mark or scar under the center of his left eye. The victim also told the police that the robber had worn an olive green knit hat, and that she could discern that he had short hair underneath. After the victim gave her description, the police brought her to the New Haven police station, where she viewed an array of photographs in an attempt to identify the man who had robbed her. The defendant's photograph appeared twice in the array. After viewing both of these photographs, the victim positively identified the defendant as the robber. She also identified the defendant in court.

In his appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court erred in: (1) failing adequately to canvass the defendant before accepting his waiver of the right to be represented by an attorney free from conflicts of interest; (2) denying his motion to suppress the victim's pre-trial and at-trial identifications, along with other motions relating to the identifications; (3) denying his motions relating to the failure of the police to preserve the array from which the victim selected the defendant's photograph, and to preserve their handwritten notes on the victim's description of the defendant; and (4) overruling his objections to allegedly prejudicial testimony by two police detectives. We find no error.


The facts underlying the defendant's first claim of error, regarding the validity of his waiver of the right to conflict-free representation, are as follows. On October 9, 1985, at the start of the third day of trial, the defendant's attorney, Kenneth Rosenthal, advised the trial court of a conflict of interest that, he claimed, prohibited him from presenting certain evidence on the defendant's behalf. That evidence, contained in New Haven police department records that the defendant had subpoenaed on the previous day of trial, related to the possibility that a third party who bore a physical resemblance to the defendant had committed the crimes with which the defendant was charged. Both the defendant and the third party lookalike were represented by the public defender's office. The defendant's attorney claimed that "the rules of ethics" prohibited him from pursuing, on the defendant's behalf, a line of defense that might implicate the third party lookalike. 3

The defendant's attorney told the trial court that, earlier that day, he had discussed the conflict with his client and had advised him of two possible remedial options: (1) the defense attorney could withdraw from the case, possibly provoking a mistrial; or (2) the defense attorney could continue to represent the defendant, but would not attempt to introduce evidence relating to the third party lookalike. The defense attorney indicated that the defendant had "preliminarily" chosen the second option. He also told the court that, although his inability to present the lookalike evidence would leave "a hole" in the defendant's case, "the case has been going well and [the defendant] ... is concerned about concluding the case." The defense attorney said that he was "torn" over how to proceed and requested "a minute to talk with [the defendant] in another room." 4 The court granted this request.

Upon returning from the conference, the defendant's attorney told the court that the defendant wished to proceed with trial. The trial court then addressed the defendant personally, asking him whether his attorney had explained "his problem" with presenting the lookalike evidence, and whether the defendant understood the consequences of not being able to present that evidence at his trial. 5 The defendant replied affirmatively to both questions, and indicated that he wanted to proceed with trial nonetheless.

During the colloquy, the defendant asked the trial court, if he were to pursue the lookalike evidence, how much time would elapse if a new trial were ordered and a new attorney appointed to represent him. The defendant's attorney, evidently interpreting this question as an indication that "[the defendant] is still pondering this decision and may need some legal advice," requested additional time to confer with his client. The court granted this request. Following a brief conference, the defense attorney again told the trial court that the defendant wished to continue with the trial. The trial then proceeded without any reference to the third party lookalike evidence.

The defendant contends that the trial court denied him his state and federal constitutional rights by failing to elicit a knowing and intelligent waiver of his right to conflict-free representation. The defendant claims that he "was apprised of neither the factual context of what he was relinquishing, the legal options available, the tactical implications of his action, nor the substantial risks and pitfalls he was facing." While we recognize the constitutional significance of the right to conflict-free representation, we conclude that, on this record, the trial court did not err in allowing the defendant to proceed with trial notwithstanding his attorney's unwillingness to present the lookalike evidence.

Our state and federal constitutions guarantee a criminal defendant the right to assistance of counsel. U.S. Const., amend. VI; Conn. Const., art. 1, § 8. 6 As an adjunct to this right, a criminal defendant is entitled to be represented by an attorney free from conflicts of interest. Wood v. Georgia, 450 U.S. 261, 271, 101 S.Ct. 1097, 1103, 67 L.Ed.2d 220 (1981); Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 70, 62 S.Ct. 457, 464, 86 L.Ed. 680 (1942); State v. Martin, 201 Conn. 74, 78, 513 A.2d 116 (1986); Festo v. Luckart, 191 Conn. 622, 626-27, 469 A.2d 1181 (1983). While the right to conflict-free representation typically is implicated in cases involving representation of criminal codefendants by a single attorney; see, e.g., Holloway v. Arkansas, 435 U.S. 475, 98 S.Ct. 1173, 55 L.Ed.2d 426 (1978); G. Lowenthal, "Joint Representation in Criminal Cases: A Critical Appraisal," 64 Va.L.Rev. 939 (1978); it is equally applicable in other cases where a conflict of interest may impair an attorney's ability to represent his client effectively. See State v. Martin, supra, 201 Conn. at 80, 513 A.2d 116.

Just as the right to assistance of counsel may be waived in favor of self-representation; see Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 819, 95 S.Ct. 2525, 2533, 45 L.Ed.2d 562 (1975); State v. Carter, 200 Conn. 607, 611, 513 A.2d 47 (1986); so may a defendant waive the right to conflict-free representation. The trial court must, however, determine on the record that such a waiver is knowing and intelligent. Glasser v. United States, supra, 315 U.S. at 71, 62 S.Ct. at 465; United States v. Curcio, 680 F.2d 881, 888-89 (2d Cir.1982); State v. Tyler-Barcomb, 197 Conn. 666, 670, 500 A.2d 1324 (1985), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 106 S.Ct. 1518, 89 L.Ed.2d 916 (1986). "If the defendant reveals that he is aware of and understands the various risks and pitfalls, and that he has the rational capacity to make a decision on the basis of this information, and if he states clearly and unequivocally ... that he nevertheless chooses to hazard [the] dangers" of waiving conflict-free representation, then his waiver may appropriately be accepted. United States v. Curcio, supra; State v. Tyler-Barcomb, supra. The waiver is not vitiated simply because the defendant,...

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