United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Michael J. Reagan, Chief Judge United States District Court.
case came before the Court on September 7, 2017, for a
hearing on Defendant's Motion to Remove Appointed Counsel
(Doc. 39). The underlying criminal matter involves a
four-count indictment alleging bank robbery on two occasions.
A brief history of the proceedings is helpful to understand
the posture of the case.
February 23, 2017, Defendant Marcus Thornton was indicted on
one count of bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
2113(a) (Doc. 12). Prior to the arraignment, Assistant
Federal Public Defender Ethan Skaggs entered his appearance
on behalf of the Defendant (Doc. 16). The Defendant was
arraigned on March 1, 2017. Following the initial
arraignment, a superseding indictment added a second count
for brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of
violence, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii)
(Doc. 22). The Defendant was arraigned on the first
superseding indictment on March 23, 2017 (Doc. 29). The
initial trial setting of April 24, 2017, was continued on
Defendant's unopposed Motion (Doc. 31), thus moving the
trial to June 26, 2017 (Dkt. txt. 32).
to the June 26, 2017 trial date, Defendant filed ex
parte correspondence with the Court seeking to terminate
his counsel and to exercise his right to a speedy trial (Doc.
33). The Court immediately set the matter for a hearing on
June 15, 2017, at which time the Defendant retracted his
request to extinguish counsel, or to press for a speedy trial
(Dkt. txt. 34). Defense counsel then filed a second unopposed
motion to continue the trial, which was granted, thus moving
the trial to September 25, 2017 (Docs. 35, 37).
August 15, 2017, Defendant sent the Court ex parte
correspondence, again seeking to discharge defense counsel
(Doc. 39). The Court scheduled the matter for a hearing on
September 1, 2017-which ultimately had to be moved to
September 7, 2017, for calendaring purposes (Dkt. txt. 40,
48). In the interim, the Defendant filed multiple motions
that were stricken because he was still represented by
counsel (See Docs. 41, 42, 43).
August 23, 2017, the Government filed a second superseding
indictment adding two additional counts (Doc. 44). The
Defendant was arraigned on the second superseding
indictment-alleging a second count of bank robbery and a
second count of brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a
crime of violence-on September 5, 2017 (Doc. 51).
September 7, 2017, Defendant Thornton came before the Court
for a hearing on his Motion to Remove Defense Counsel (Doc.
39). At the hearing, the Court initially discussed the
possibility of providing the Defendant with alternative
counsel, before moving to the traditional
Faretta colloquy. At the conclusion of the
colloquy, the Court FINDS that Defendant is
competent and able to represent himself for the reasons that
Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees
the accused in a criminal case the right to the effective
assistance of counsel. Strickland v. Washington, 466
U.S. 668, 684-86, (1984); Wyatt v. United States,
574 F.3d 455, 457 (7th Cir. 2009). This applies to all
critical stages of a criminal proceeding, including
sentencing. Jackson v. Miller, 260 F.3d 769, 776
(7th Cir. 2001), citing Gardner v. Florida, 430 U.S.
349, 358 (1977). Additionally, the Sixth Amendment provides a
defendant “who does not require appointed counsel the
right to choose who will represent him.” United
States v. Turner, 594 F.3d 946, 948 (7th Cir. 2010),
citing Wheat v. United States, 486 U.S. 153, 159
(1988). The logical inverse is also true: “the right to
counsel of choice does not extend to defendants who
require counsel to be appointed for them.” United
States v. Wallace, 753 F.3d 671, 675 (2014), quoting
United States v. Gonzalez-Lopez, 548 U.S. 140, 151
(2006) (emphasis added).
right to counsel of choice for a defendant with appointed
counsel also does not mean that the defendant has an
unlimited ability to request different appointed counsel.
See United States v. Alden, 527 F.3d 653, 660 (7th
Cir. 2008) (“A district court is not required to
appoint a new lawyer each time the defendant requests
one”); United States v. Irorere, 228 F.3d 816,
828 (7th Cir. 2000) (“where the defendant's lack of
counsel was caused by his own refusal to cooperate with the
counsel appointed for him…the district court's
decision not to appoint new counsel for the defendant does
not constitute an abuse of discretion.”) Faced with a
defendant insistent upon self-representation, a district
court should make an inquiry to satisfy itself that the
defendant is indeed competent to represent himself. See
Faretta, 422 U.S. at 835-36 (1975); United States v.
Berry, 565 F.3d 385, 386-87 (7th Cir. 2009) (noting that
a court can be caught between a rock and a hard place when a
defendant insists upon self-representation, but exhibits
characteristics that cast doubt upon his ability to
competently do so, and noting that in such a situation a
district court acted appropriately by conducting a
order to proceed pro se, a defendant must
demonstrate a knowing and intelligent waiver of his right to
counsel. See United States v. Clark, 774 F.3d 1108,
1112 (7th Cir. 2014); Alden, 527 F.3d at 660;
Irorere, 228 F.3d at 828. A valid waiver must also
be voluntary and unequivocal. Clark, 774 at 1112.
A judge must investigate as long and as thoroughly as the
circumstances of the case before him demand….A judge
can make certain that an accused's professed waiver of
counsel is understandingly and wisely made only from a
penetrating and comprehensive examination of all the
circumstances under which such a plea is tendered.
Id. quoting Von Moltke v. Gillies, 332 U.S. 708,
723-24 (1948) (Black, J., plurality opinion). The length and
arduous nature of the inquiry can and often will vary based
on the severity of the charges and the complexity of the
case. Id. at 1112-13; Iowa v. ...