STATE v. MAURICE FLANAGAN, SC 17990
Judicial District of New Britain at G.A. 15
Criminal; Whether Trial Court Violated Defendant's Constitutional Right to Self-Representation; Whether Defendant made Clear and Unequivocal Request for Self-Representation; Whether Trial Court Improperly Failed to Canvass Defendant Pursuant to Practice Book § 44-3 as to Waiver of Right to Counsel. The defendant was convicted of conspiracy to commit first degree assault. After initially affirming the judgment of conviction, the Appellate Court granted the defendant's motion for reconsideration and reargument en banc on the issue of whether the trial court had violated the defendant's right to self-representation. The facts underlying this claim are as follows. At trial, just before the state rested its case, the defendant's attorney informed the court that he did not intend to call any witnesses and that the defendant disagreed with this aspect of his trial strategy. When the trial court gave the defendant the opportunity to express his point of view on the matter, the defendant expressed his dissatisfaction with his attorney's decision not to call any witnesses and stated his reasons for believing that the decision was not proper. The defendant then asked the trial court whether he had the right to finish the case himself without his attorney. The trial court stated that he did not have that right and asked the defendant if he was making a request to represent himself for the remainder of the case. In response, the defendant made more statements concerning his disapproval of his attorney's representation but did not state that he was making a request to represent himself. On appeal, the defendant claimed that the trial court violated his constitutional right to self-representation by the manner in which it responded to what he claims was a request to waive counsel and represent himself and by failing to canvass him pursuant to Practice Book § 44-3, which sets forth the circumstances under which a trial court may accept a defendant's waiver of his right to counsel. A majority of the Appellate Court affirmed (102 Conn. App. 105) the defendant's conviction, holding that the defendant's statements to the trial court, which constituted inquiry about his right to self-representation and expressions of dissatisfaction with his attorney, did not rise to the level of a clear and unequivocal request for self-representation, as required by State v. Carter, 200 Conn. 607 (1986). It further determined that, in the absence of such a request, the trial court had no duty to inquire into the defendant's interest in self-representation and that, accordingly, the trial court did not improperly fail to canvass the defendant in accordance with Practice Book § 44-3. In this certified appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that the trial court did not violate the defendant's constitutional right to self-representation.