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Brewer v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

May 24, 2017

CHRISTOPHER EDDIE LEE BREWER APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NORTHERN DISTRICT [NO. 01CR-15-131] HONORABLE DAVID G. HENRY, JUDGE

          Mylissa M. Blankenship, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brooke Jackson Gasaway, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge

         Appellant Christopher Brewer was convicted following a bench trial in the Arkansas County Circuit Court of one count of commercial burglary, one count of theft of property, one count of possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to manufacture methamphetamine, five counts of theft by receiving, and one count of possession of firearms by certain persons. He was sentenced to an aggregate thirty-five years in the Arkansas Department of Correction. His sole argument on appeal is that the circuit court erroneously deprived him of his right to counsel of his choosing. For the reasons set forth below, we disagree and affirm.

         After the criminal information had been filed in this case, the circuit court entered an order on October 6, 2015, appointing public defender Dennis Molock to represent Brewer. Trial was then scheduled for December 17, 2015. A week before the trial date, Molock filed a motion for continuance in which he asserted that he had developed a conflict with the case and intended to assign the matter to another public defender. As a consequence, Molock asked that the matter be removed from the December 17 trial docket and set for a jury trial at a later date. The court approved the motion, and the case was assigned to public defender Tim Blair. On March 10, 2016, Brewer appeared in court with Blair and asked to waive a jury trial. The court granted the request and reset the case for a bench trial on May 3, 2016.

         On the morning that the case was set for trial, the following exchange occurred between Brewer's attorney and the court:

Court: [I]s the defense ready, Mr. Blair?
Blair: Judge, we're ready to go forward. Mr. Brewer has for-asked me to ask the court-he's asking for time to hire a private attorney. He tells me he's had an opportunity to either-he's come into some money at this point and would like to do that.
Court: That request will be denied. This case has been set now for-well, it was set for March 10th for jury trial and the defendant waived jury trial, and the case is now set to be tried this morning as a bench trial. The case has been set for almost two months now, and I'm going to deny any request for any further delay.

         Blair then advised the court that Brewer wished to "undo" his waiver of his jury-trial right and proceed to trial with a jury. The circuit court likewise denied that request, stating as follows:

Mr.-Mr. Brewer, based on your motions that have been made today-one to retain private counsel, and one to withdrawal [sic] your waiver of jury trial-I believe that by your actions you are gaming the system and I'm not going to allow that. To grant your motion today would be-would be to cause an inconvenience to the court, to the witnesses who have been subpoenaed, and to the administration of justice. Your motion is denied.

         The case proceeded to trial, and the circuit court convicted Brewer of the offenses set forth above.

         Brewer argues on appeal that the circuit court's ruling violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of his choice. Brewer's right to counsel of choice is constitutionally guaranteed, but the right to counsel of one's choosing is not absolute. A defendant may not use his or her right to counsel to frustrate the inherent power of the court to command an orderly, efficient, and effective administration of justice. Thomas ...


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