On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Indictment No. 07-04-0543.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Lisa and Baxter.
Following a non-jury trial, defendant Dana Harris, Sr. was found guilty of second-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (count one); third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(d) (count two); fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d)*fn1 (count three); and fourth-degree certain persons not to possess weapons, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7(a) (count four). After appropriate merger, the judge sentenced defendant on count one to a seven-year term of imprisonment, subject to the eighty-five percent parole ineligibility term required by N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. The judge imposed concurrent four-year and eighteen-month terms, respectively, on counts two and four. On appeal, defendant raises a single claim:
I. THE COURT ERRED WHEN IT IGNORED DEFENDANT'S CLEARLY STATED REQUEST TO REPRESENT HIMSELF.
The record demonstrates that defendant never asserted a desire to represent himself. Instead, his remarks were confined to dissatisfaction with his assigned Public Defender. Thus, in the absence of the "clear and unequivocal" request for self-representation that our case law requires, the judge had no obligation to inquire further. We thus reject the claim defendant advances and affirm his conviction.
Because defendant's claim on appeal is limited to the issue of self-representation, we need not describe the State's proofs at trial in any detail. Suffice it to say, the State established that defendant walked out of a supermarket in Hamilton Township without paying for several packages of meat and, when chased by the store manager, swung a four-foot-long wooden board at him and punched him in the head.
We turn to a review of the issue presented on appeal. Based upon the record that has been presented to us, the first time defendant expressed any dissatisfaction with his attorney was during an October 19, 2007 hearing on his motion to dismiss the indictment. After defense counsel concluded his argument on the motion, defendant interjected, saying "can I speak?" The following discussion occurred:
THE COURT: Your attorney spoke for you. Do you want to speak to him first?
DEFENDANT: I'm sure I can understand everything that's going on. Make no mistake about that. I moved the indictment.
THE COURT: I can't hear you.
DEFENDANT: I moved to have the indictment dismissed in its entirety under State v. Chowns (phonetic).
THE COURT: I understand that.
DEFENDANT: In its entirety. Brought about when [the prosecutor] is talking about this count, first-degree robbery charge. That's my intent. In its entirety.
The proceeding then resumed with further legal argument.
After denying defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment, the judge asked the attorneys whether the State had provided a plea offer. Before his attorney could answer, defendant stated "there will be no deal." He added, "I'll ...