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Indiana v. Edwards

June 19, 2008

INDIANA, PETITIONER
v.
AHMAD EDWARDS



On Writ Of Certiorari To The Supreme Court Of Indiana Court Below: 866 N. E. 2d 252

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

OCTOBER TERM, 2007

Argued March 26, 2008

After Indiana charged respondent Edwards with attempted murder and other crimes for a shooting during his attempt to steal a pair of shoes, his mental condition became the subject of three competency proceedings and two self-representation requests, mostly before the same trial judge. Referring to the lengthy record of psychiatric reports, the trial court noted that Edwards suffered from schizophrenia and concluded that, although it appeared he was competent to stand trial, he was not competent to defend himself at trial. The court therefore denied Edwards' self-representation request. He was represented by appointed counsel at trial and convicted on two counts. Indiana's intermediate appellate court ordered a new trial, agreeing with Edwards that the trial court's refusal to permit him to represent himself deprived him of his constitutional right of self-representation under the Sixth Amendment and Faretta v. California, 422 U. S. 806. Although finding that the record provided substantial support for the trial court's ruling, the Indiana Supreme Court nonetheless affirmed the intermediate appellate court on the ground that Faretta and Godinez v. Moran, The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Breyer

Opinion of the Court

554 U. S. ____ (2008)

This case focuses upon a criminal defendant whom a state court found mentally competent to stand trial if represented by counsel but not mentally competent to conduct that trial himself. We must decide whether in these circumstances the Constitution forbids a State from insisting that the defendant proceed to trial with counsel, the State thereby denying the defendant the right to represent himself. See U. S. Const., Amdt. 6; Faretta v. California, 422 U. S. 806 (1975). We conclude that the Constitution does not forbid a State so to insist.

I.

In July 1999 Ahmad Edwards, the respondent, tried to steal a pair of shoes from an Indiana department store. After he was discovered, he drew a gun, fired at a store security officer, and wounded a bystander. He was caught and then charged with attempted murder, battery with a deadly weapon, criminal recklessness, and theft. His mental condition subsequently became the subject of three competency proceedings and two self-representation requests, mostly before the same trial judge:

1. First Competency Hearing: August 2000. Five months after Edwards' arrest, his court-appointed counsel asked for a psychiatric evaluation. After hearing psychiatrist and neuropsychologist witnesses (in February 2000 and again in August 2000), the court found Edwards incompetent to stand trial, App. 365a, and committed him to Logansport State Hospital for evaluation and treatment, see id., at 48a-53a.

2. Second Competency Hearing: March 2002. Seven months after his commitment, doctors found that Edwards' condition had improved to the point where he could stand trial. Id., at 63a-64a. Several months later, however, but still before trial, Edwards' counsel asked for another psychiatric evaluation. In March 2002, the judge held a competency hearing, considered additional psychiatric evidence, and (in April) found that Edwards, while "suffer[ing] from mental illness," was "competent to assist his attorneys in his defense and stand trial for the charged crimes." Id., at 114a.

3. Third Competency Hearing: April 2003. Seven months later but still before trial, Edwards' counsel sought yet another psychiatric evaluation of his client. And, in April 2003, the court held yet another competency hearing. Edwards' counsel presented further psychiatric and neuropsychological evidence showing that Edwards was suffering from serious thinking difficulties and delusions. A testifying psychiatrist reported that Edwards could understand the charges against him, but he was "unable to cooperate with his attorney in his defense because of his schizophrenic illness"; "[h]is delusions and his marked difficulties in thinking make it impossible for him to cooperate with his attorney." Id., at 164a. In November 2003, the court concluded that Edwards was not then competent to stand trial and ordered his recommitment to the state hospital. Id., at 206a-211a.

4. First Self-Representation Request and First Trial: June 2005. About eight months after his commitment, the hospital reported that Edwards' condition had again improved to the point that he had again become competent to stand trial. Id., at 228a-236a. And almost one year after that Edwards' trial began. Just before trial, Edwards asked to represent himself. Id., at 509a, 520a. He also asked for a continuance, which, he said, he needed in order to proceed pro se. Id., at 519a-520a. The court refused the continuance. Id., at 520a. Edwards then proceeded to trial represented by counsel. The jury convicted him of criminal recklessness and theft but failed to reach a verdict on the charges of attempted murder and battery.

5. Second Self-Representation Request and Second Trial: December 2005. The State decided to retry Edwards on the attempted murder and battery charges. Just before the retrial, Edwards again asked the court to permit him to represent himself. Id., at 279a-282a. Referring to the lengthy record of psychiatric reports, the trial court noted that Edwards still suffered from schizophrenia and concluded that "[w]ith these findings, he's competent to stand trial but I'm not going to find he's competent to defend himself." Id., at 527a. The court denied Edwards' self-representation request. Edwards was represented by appointed counsel at his retrial. The jury convicted Edwards on both of the remaining counts.

Edwards subsequently appealed to Indiana's intermediate appellate court. He argued that the trial court's refusal to permit him to represent himself at his retrial deprived him of his constitutional right of self-representation. U. S. Const., Amdt. 6; Faretta, supra. The court agreed and ordered a new trial. The matter then went to the Indiana Supreme Court. That court found that "[t]he record in this case presents a substantial basis to agree with the trial court," 866 N. E. 2d 252, 260 (2007), but it nonetheless affirmed the intermediate appellate court on the belief that this Court's precedents, namely, Faretta, 422 U. S. 806, and Godinez v. Moran, 509 U. S. 389 (1993), required the State to allow Edwards to represent himself. At Indiana's request, we agreed to consider whether the Constitution required the trial court to allow Edwards to represent himself at trial.

II.

Our examination of this Court's precedents convinces us that those precedents frame the question presented, but they do not answer it. The two cases that set forth the Constitution's "mental competence" standard, Dusky v. United States, 362 U. S. 402 (1960) (per curiam), and Drope v. Missouri, 420 U. S. 162 (1975), specify that the Constitution does not permit trial of an individual who lacks "mental competency." Dusky defines the competency standard as including both (1) "whether" the defendant has "a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him" and (2) whether the defendant "has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding." 362 U. S., at 402 (emphasis added; internal quotation marks omitted). Drope repeats that standard, stating that it "has long been accepted that a person whose mental condition is such that he lacks the capacity to understand the nature and object of the proceedings against him, to consult with counsel, and to assist in preparing his defense may not be subjected to a trial." 420 U. S., at 171 (emphasis added). Neither case considered the mental competency issue presented here, namely, the relation of the mental competence standard to the right of self-representation.

The Court's foundational "self-representation" case, Faretta, held that the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments include a "constitutional right to proceed without counsel when" a criminal defendant "voluntarily and intelligently elects to do so." 422 U. S., at 807 (emphasis in original). The Court implied that right from: (1) a "nearly universal conviction," made manifest in state law, that "forcing a lawyer upon an unwilling defendant is contrary to his basic right to defend himself if he truly wants to do so," id., at 817-818; (2) Sixth Amendment language granting rights to the "accused;" (3) Sixth Amendment structure indicating that the rights it sets forth, related to the "fair administration of American justice," are "persona[l]" to the accused, id., at 818-821; (4) the absence of historical examples of forced representation, id., at 821-832; and (5) " `respect for the individual,' " id., at 834 (quoting Illinois v. Allen, 397 U. S. 337, 350-351 (1970) (Brennan, J., concurring) (a knowing and intelligent waiver of counsel "must be honored out of `that respect for the individual which is the lifeblood of the law' ")).

Faretta does not answer the question before us both because it did not consider the problem of mental competency (cf. 422 U. S., at 835 (Faretta was "literate, competent, and understanding")), and because Faretta itself and later cases have made clear that the right of self-representation is not absolute. See Martinez v. Court of Appeal of Cal., Fourth Appellate Dist., 528 U. S. 152, 163 (2000) (no right of self-representation on direct appeal in a criminal case); McKaskle v. Wiggins, 465 U. S. 168, 178-179 (1984) (appointment of standby counsel over self-represented defendant's objection is permissible); Faretta, 422 U. S., at 835, n. 46 (no right "to abuse the dignity of the courtroom"); ibid. (no right to avoid compliance with "relevant rules of procedural and substantive law"); id., at 834, n. 46 (no right to "engag[e] in serious and obstructionist misconduct," referring to Illinois v. Allen, supra). The question here concerns a mental-illness-related limitation on the scope of the self-representation right.

The sole case in which this Court considered mental competence and self-representation together, Godinez, supra, presents a question closer to that at issue here. The case focused upon a borderline-competent criminal defendant who had asked a state trial court to permit him to represent himself and to change his pleas from not guilty to guilty. The state trial court had found that the defendant met Dusky's mental competence standard, that he "knowingly and intelligently" waived his right to assistance of counsel, and that he "freely and voluntarily" chose to plead guilty. 509 U. S., at 393 (internal quotation marks omitted). And the state trial court had consequently granted the defendant's self-representation and change-of-plea requests. See id., at 392-393. A federal appeals court, however, had vacated the defendant's guilty pleas on the ground that the Constitution required the trial court to ask a further question, namely, whether the defendant was competent to waive his constitutional right to counsel. See id., at 393-394. Competence to make that latter decision, the appeals court said, required the defendant to satisfy a higher mental ...


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