September 28, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 15 C 4994 -
Samuel Der-Yeghiayan, Judge.
BAUER, MANION, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.
over forty years, the Supreme Court has recognized that the
Sixth Amendment implicitly entails a right to
self-representation. Faretta v. California, 422 U.S.
806, 819 (1975). When Petitioner James Freeman, charged in
Illinois state court with kidnapping and murder, filed a
motion to proceed pro se, the judge denied his request and
found that he did not possess the necessary experience and
abilities to represent himself. Freeman ultimately proceeded
to trial with a lawyer and was convicted.
acknowledging that the right to self-representation cannot be
denied based on limited education and legal abilities, the
Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the denial of Freeman's
right on the ground that his request was not unequivocal. The
trial court's denial of Freeman's self-representation
right, and the appellate court's affirmance of that
decision, were both contrary to, and unreasonable
applications of Faretta. Freeman petitioned this
Court for a writ of habeas corpus, and since he has satisfied
the stringent standards for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(d)(1), he is entitled to the issuance of a writ.
Freeman's Initial Request to Proceed Pro Se
February 18, 2004, Freeman was indicted in Illinois in
connection with the kidnapping and murder of a drug dealer,
Robert Green. Following his arraignment, the court appointed
public defender Kevin Foster as Freeman's counsel. In
June, 2004, the State announced that it intended to seek the
death penalty. Shortly thereafter, Freeman orally requested
to proceed pro se. The trial court granted Freeman's
request, and Foster withdrew as Freeman's counsel.
court held a status hearing on November 3, 2006, and invited
Foster to attend. At the hearing, the court asked Freeman
whether he intended to continue representing himself. The
court repeatedly reminded Freeman of the perils of proceeding
without a lawyer, particularly since the State was seeking
the death penalty. Freeman remained firm in his desire to
proceed pro se despite the court's strong encouragement
to have Foster reappointed.
court then moved onto other matters and set a pretrial
conference date in two months. However, Freeman informed the
judge that a two-month gap between his court appearances
would result in him being transferred to a jail much farther
away. In order to avoid the transfer and to set a shorter
status date, Freeman agreed to have counsel reappointed.
Freeman asked whether Foster would be reappointed, and told
the court that he "waived [Foster] for a reason."
The court said the Public Defender's Office would
determine which particular public defender would be assigned.
Ultimately, Foster was reappointed as Freeman's counsel
at the next status date.
Freeman's Motion to Proceed Pro Se and for Standby
September 20, 2007, Freeman filed a motion titled
"Motion to Proceed Pro Se and for Standby Counsel."
In the motion, Freeman again stated that he wished to proceed
pro se due to a "conflict of interest" with Foster,
and that he did not believe he would "receive the full
effective assistance of counsel from [Foster]." Twice in
the motion, Freeman stated that he did not wish to be
represented by Foster, or any other member of the Public
Defender's Office. Freeman also asked the court to
appoint two standby counsel. The motion concluded with a
request that the court "grant this motion for leave to
proceed Pro Se with standby counsel and accept this waiver as
being knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily
motion was taken up on October 19, 2007. The court indicated
for the record that before it was "a pro se motion to
proceed pro se and for standby counsel." After Freeman
acknowledged that he filed the motion, the court began
questioning Freeman about his request:
The Court: Mr. Freeman, you are not saying why it is that you
say you feel Mr. Foster cannot give you effective assistance
of counsel in your motion.
Freeman: I explained it in there.
The Court: No. You say that I believe that prejudice [will]
result in the outcome with this lawyer representing you and
that you won't receive the full effect of assistance of
counsel from this attorney. That's a conclusion sir.
What facts are you presenting to me that would lead you to
Freeman: I mean, based on me and this attorney communication
and due to the representation that-since he been on my case,
it haven't been-like when he comes and see me, we always
arguing. You know he tell me that I think I am too smart. He
kind of downgrade me. He shows signs of like this case
can't be won and all that. I don't ...