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State v. Barnes

Supreme Court of South Carolina

July 1, 2015

The State of South Carolina, Petitioner,
Steven Louis Barnes, Respondent

Heard April 8, 2015.

On Writ of Certiorari to Edgefield County. Diane S. Goodstein, Circuit Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2014-001966.

Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka and Senior Assistant Attorney General Melody Jane Brown, all of Columbia; and Solicitor Donald V. Myers, of Lexington, for Petitioner.

Jeffrey P. Bloom; and Chief Attorney William Sean McGuire and Staff Attorney Emily Therese Kuchar, both of Capital Trial Division of SC Commission on Indigent Defense, all of Columbia, for Respondent.

JUSTICE PLEICONES. BEATTY and HEARN, JJ., concur. KITTREDGE, J. concurring in result only. TOAL, C.J., dissenting in a separate opinion.


Page 455



We granted the State's request for a common law writ of certiorari to review a pretrial circuit court order in this capital retrial proceeding. We affirm the circuit court's order.

Respondent's first capital conviction and sentence were reversed on appeal because he was denied his constitutional right to represent himself at trial. State v. Barnes, 407 S.C. 27, 753 S.E.2d 545 (2014); see Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 95 S.Ct. 2525, 45 L.Ed.2d 562 (1975). In Barnes, the Court declined to adopt the heightened competency standard for a defendant who seeks to represent himself which is permitted, but not required, by Indiana v. Edwards, 554 U.S. 164, 128 S.Ct. 2379, 171 L.Ed.2d 345 (2008). Since the Edwards standard had been applied by the circuit judge, the Court held it was " constrained to reverse" respondent's conviction and sentence. Id. at 37, 753 S.E.2d at 550.

The State plans to retry respondent, and has indicated it will again seek the death penalty. Respondent sought the appointment of counsel to represent him in these new proceedings. At the appointment hearing, the State argued that in seeking representation for the retrial, respondent essentially conceded that his prior conviction was constitutionally obtained. The State contended that in light of this concession, respondent's original conviction and sentence should be reinstated and this Court should proceed to review the issues raised but not reached in the first appeal.[1] The circuit court denied the State's request.

Page 456


Must this Court reconsider its decision in State v. Barnes, 407 S.C. 27, 753 S.E.2d 545 (2014), in light of respondent's request for counsel in his second trial?


The State argues that by requesting counsel at a pretrial hearing, respondent has conceded that there was no constitutional infirmity in his first trial. Before addressing the merits of his claim, we look first at the procedural hurdle which the State must clear.

In order to effect a review of respondent's first appeal, this Court would need to recall the remittitur from the circuit court. " In order to justify this court in exercising the unusual power of recalling the remittitur after it has been sent down, a very strong showing would be required that the remittitur was sent down through some mistake or inadvertence on the part of this court or its officer . . . ." State v. Keels, 39 S.C. 553, 17 S.E. 802 (1893). The State cites no authority, and we are aware of none, that permits the remittitur to be recalled, not because of an error or inadvertence on the part of the Supreme Court, but rather because of post-remittitur conduct by a party. Accordingly, we do not believe that even if we were to find merit to the State's position, that we would be empowered to grant the relief it seeks. See also Earle v. City of Greenville, 84 S.C. 193, 65 S.E. 1050 (1909).[2] As explained below, we find no authority supporting the State's position in this matter.[3]

The State relies upon three decisions to support its contention that respondent's original conviction should be reinstated, and the appellate issues not reached in the appeal be considered now, if he persists in seeking counsel at his second proceeding: United States v. Johnson, 223 F.3d 665 (7th Cir. 2000); Edwards v. Commonwealth, 49 Va.App. 727, 644 S.E.2d 396 (Va. Ct.App. 2007); and People v. Carson, 35 Cal.4th 1, 23 Cal.Rptr.3d 482, 104 P.3d 837 (Cal. 2005). Read correctly, none of these decisions provide authority for the State's position.

In Johnson, the question on appeal was whether the defendant waived his right to represent himself at trial. The court held the defendant " acquiesced in the denial by judicial inaction of his motion and thereby deliberately relinquished his right of self-representation." Johnson, 223 F.3d at 669. Despite finding waiver, the opinion goes on in obiter dictum :

We add that as he has made no representation that if we order a new trial he will persist in his desire to represent himself, his claim that his right of self-representation was infringed may be moot, as well as

Page 457

having no merit for the reasons just indicated. For if as we expect he would be represented by lawyers at any new trial, he would not have vindicated the right of self-representation upon which he premises his appeal from the denial of that right. The point is not that at a subsequent trial he would be estopped to invoke his right to counsel, an argument rejected in the only cases to have considered the issue. United States v. McKinley, 58 F.3d 1475, 1483 (10th Cir. 1995); Johnstone v. Kelly, 812 F.2d 821 (2d Cir. 1987) (per curiam). The point is rather that if he wants on remand exactly what he had in his first trial, namely representation by competent lawyers, it is difficult to understand what he lost by the denial of his motion: he had at the first trial what he wants at the second. (emphasis supplied).


While this dicta merely speculates about the consequences had the court found the defendant was entitled to a new trial, it also recognizes that precedent is squarely against the position now espoused by the State. See United States v. McKinley, supra ; Johnstone v. Kelly, supra ; see also United States v. Kennard, 799 F.2d 556, 557 (9th Cir. 1986) (" We reject the government's contention that, once a waiver of counsel has been given, a defendant is forever precluded from asking for an attorney in a later proceeding" ); Buhl v. Cooksey, 233 F.3d 783, 807 fn.25 (3rd Cir. 2000); State v. Figueroa, 186 N.J. 589, 897 A.2d 1050, 1053 (N.J. 2006) (and cases cited therein). The State nowhere addresses McKinley or Johnstone, despite the fact that the dicta it relies upon in Johnson expressly acknowledges them.

The State's reliance on the Virginia Court of Appeals' decision in Edwards v. Commonwealth, supra, is also misplaced. The Edwards court remanded the case to the trial court for reconsideration of the defendant's Faretta request. The court indicated that if on remand the defendant withdrew his Faretta request, no retrial would be necessary. This is only logical since the trial court was being asked to make an initial Faretta determination. This decision cites the dicta from Johnson, supra, for the proposition that the defendant must persist in his Faretta request on remand or have his conviction reinstated. This Court, however, did not remand respondent's first appeal, but rather decided the merits of his Faretta issue, agreed with respondent, and reversed his conviction and sentence, leaving the State to decide whether to retry him. Finally, the issue in People v. Carson, supra, was whether the trial court erred in terminating the defendant's self-representation because of the defendant's pre-trial out-of-court conduct. Carson reversed the trial court's order, but instructed the trial court to hold another hearing to determine if the defendant's Faretta rights had been properly terminated. If they were found to have been, the judgment was to be reinstated, but if not, the State could retry him. In our view, Carson adds nothing to the State's contention that at a second trial respondent must proceed pro se or have his first appeal reinstated and the non- Faretta issues decided. If relevant at all, Carson holds that a Faretta violation mandates reversal of a criminal defendant's conviction.

The State relies on appellate decisions that remanded the question of the defendant's waiver of his right to counsel to the trial court for reconsideration. It is apparent to us that the State now regrets that in respondent's first appeal it chose to argue only that the trial court's adoption and application of the standard announced in Edwards, supra, was correct, rather than to ask in the alternative for a remand if the Court were not to adopt Edwards. The State did not seek this alternative relief, we decided the appeal on its merits, and properly returned the remittitur to the circuit court. Respondent is entitled to the new trial, with all its attendant constitutional rights, pursuant to our decision in his first appeal.

We also note with concern the implication of the State's argument. The State's position is that the erroneous denial of a defendant's sixth amendment right to self-representation at the first proceeding results in that defendant having a diminished sixth amendment right in a second trial. In other words, the State seeks to punish the defendant whose constitutional rights have been violated, a concept that is contrary to both justice and

Page 458

common sense. Finally, it appears that the State's argument is an attempt to introduce a prejudice component into what is admittedly a structural error. See United States v. Gonzalez-Lopez, 548 U.S. 140, 150-51, 126 S.Ct. 2557, 165 L.Ed.2d 409 (2006) (prejudice is irrelevant when the constitutional right to self-representation is violated). As the Supreme Court explained " [s]ince the right of self-representation is a right that when exercised usually increases the likelihood of a trial outcome unfavorable to the defendant, its denial is not amenable to 'harmless error' analysis. The right is either respected or denied; its deprivation cannot be harmless." McKaskle, 465 U.S. at 177, fn. 8. To the extent the State's argument can be characterized as " no harm, no foul," it conflicts with the United States Supreme Court's pronouncements on the sanctity of an individual's sixth amendment right to counsel/right to self-representation.


For the reasons given above, the circuit court's ruling is


BEATTY and HEARN, JJ., concur.

KITTREDGE, J. concurring in result only.

TOAL, C.J., dissenting in a separate opinion.



I respectfully dissent. I would find that Respondent waived his right to insist on counsel by arguing and obtaining a ruling that he was ...

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