“A valid waiver of counsel presumes that defendant makes the decision ‘with eyes wide open'”
Before a judge accepts a criminal defendant’s waiver of the right to proceed with a lawyer, the judge must assure that the defendant’s waiver is knowing and voluntary, including with full understanding of the penalties faced if there is a conviction.
Deon Turner went to trial in Talbot County, Maryland, for suspended driving after telling the judge he had decided against proceeding with a lawyer. Shortly before his waiver hearing, the prosecutor delivered to him a notice of the prosecution’s intention to have him sentenced as a repeat offender, but the notice did not explain what the maximum penalties were for being a repeat offender.
The jury convicted Mr. Turner of suspended driving, and the judge slammed him with a three-year sentence as a repeat offender, where a first offender could only have received up to one year.
Mr. Turner finally got smart and obtained a lawyer. His lawyer first got his sentence reduced to two years, arguing that anything over two years was illegal. Then, on appeal today, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed his conviction on the basis of his waiving the right to trial counsel without "eyes wide open", saying "’A valid waiver of counsel presumes that defendant makes the decision "with eyes wide open"’" Turner v. Maryland, ___ Md. App. ___ (April 29, 2010) (quoting Knox v. Maryland, 404 Md. 76, 91, 945 A.2d 638 (2008) .
The Turner decision was decided correctly, and perhaps is an unintended plug of sorts for King Crimson. The opinion’s recitation of facts also underlines the maxim that one who proceeds to a criminal trial without a lawyer has a fool for a client, and that plenty of judges will slam people for repeat jailable offenses. Jon Katz.