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Robinson v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

June 7, 2017

DONNELL ROBINSON APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE CHICOT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 09CR-14-62] HONORABLE R. BYNUM GIBSON, JUDGE

          Potts Law Office, by: Gary W. Potts, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Rebecca Kane, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          WAYMOND M. BROWN, Judge

         Appellant Donnell Robinson was found guilty of first-degree murder by a Chicot County jury. He was sentenced to forty years' imprisonment. He argues on appeal that the trial court erred and abused its discretion in: (1) its failure to make specific directed-verdict motions on appellant's behalf, thus not preserving the issues for appeal; (2) denying appellant's motions for directed verdict based on insufficiency of the evidence; and (3) its finding that appellant had made an effective waiver of his right to counsel and could proceed pro se. We affirm.

         Appellant was charged in the July 17, 2014 murder of April Taylor. Taylor was found dead on the floor in her home due to blunt force injuries to her head.[1] Appellant and Taylor were in a relationship and had been living together until July 16, 2014, when Taylor kicked appellant out of the house. While detectives were on the scene conducting interviews with Taylor's neighbors, they developed appellant as a person of interest. Appellant subsequently appeared and was taken in for questioning. An arrest warrant was issued for him on July 18, 2014, and he was charged by information on August 5, 2014, as a habitual offender with Taylor's death. Appellant had his first appearance before Judge Don E. Glover on July 21, 2014. At that time, he was advised of the charges against him and was told that he would be appointed an attorney to represent him. Appellant's plea and arraignment took place on September 8, 2014, before Judge Sam Pope. At that time, appellant informed the court that he had hired his own lawyer, Greg Robinson, to represent him. After several continuances, appellant's omnibus hearing took place on March 30, 2015. At that time, appellant informed that court that he had fired his attorney because the attorney had not talked to appellant about the case and because the attorney was "no good" and was an "ineffective assistance of counsel." Appellant advised the court that he wished to represent himself and that he had done so in a trial in 2009.[2] Upon questioning by the court, appellant stated:[3]

You asked me a while ago why did I want to represent myself. That is the only way I can get my paperwork, [be]cause with an appointed attorney, he is not going to get me the paperwork that I asked for and that I am due.
If I ask [the attorney] to send me this, send me that, this is what you are supposed to send me because this is my guaranteed rights of the United States Constitution and Arkansas Constitution, just like I will say here now, the oath of office, you all solemnly swear to affirm and support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Arkansas. You all are just rebelling against the United States Constitution because you all are not following the rules, not even Arkansas rules of criminal procedure. All I am asking for is justice right here, to follow the rules.

         The court responded by telling appellant that it sounded like appellant was "just spouting off a bunch of generalities" and that he did not "know anything about the particulars." The court found that appellant was not capable of knowingly and intelligently representing himself. The court discharged Robinson and appointed Steven Porch to represent appellant.

         At the May 4, 2015 hearing, Porch informed the court that appellant "has stated unequivocally and emphatically that he wants to exercise his. . . right to represent himself." According to Porch, appellant refused to talk to Porch or give him any information necessary for Porch to effectively represent appellant. The following colloquy took place:

Appellant: I decided that ever since my attorney messed me around. I decided that because I want my United States Constitution of America rights that is guaranteed to me. That is what I want. And I am not getting it from you judge.
While you are talking to me, I am going to let my attorney read this here. If he can sign this contract that he is going to take and fight for my United States Constitution of America rights, the amendment fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth and 14th, I might would use him.
The only thing the contract says that he is going to defend my United States Constitution of America rights. You can read it yourself, judge. If he ain't going to sign it, that is the reason I am not going to use him because I know he is not for me.
The Court: There are some dangers associated with representing yourself. When you represent yourself, you are really trying, wearing two hats. One of the hats you are wearing is that you are a defendant in a case.
There are all allegations against you that you have committed a crime and the jury has to decide whether or not the State has met its burden of proof to prove those allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.
The other hat you are wearing is as a defense lawyer. And sometimes it is hard to do both in my experience and observation. Not being thoroughly trained in the law, it would be really easy for you to waive some rights that you have in representing yourself and making an improper record here in this courtroom.
I am trying to talk to you to determine whether or not I ought to let you represent yourself. It is my obligation to warn you of the dangers of doing that and that is what I am doing. Do you have any questions about what I have said?
Appellant: No sir. All I know is that you are not going by the United States Constitution statutes or the rules of Arkansas Constitution. And you all did sign an oath which is Arkansas Constitution 19, section 20, saying that you will promise to uphold and support the United States Constitution and Arkansas Constitution. And you are not supporting them, judge. That is perjury.
The Court: I don't need any lectures from you. I know the oath I took. I was there when I took it. You were not. But you are stupid. You are a fool.
Appellant: I, Donnell Robinson, in front of this court, all of the spectators, am getting down on my knees in front of everyone here begging you, as if you are a God to grant me my guaranteed rights of due process of law by the Arkansas Constitution, section 8, but not limited to, to grant me equal protection of law by the 14th amendment of United States Constitution of America, but not limited to, also to grant me my rights as a United States citizen and grant me my rights by Arkansas rules of criminal procedure.
And if I cannot receive these rights, I will have my family to post on the Internet to the social media, putting all of your actions on with your name first explaining your violation, bias and prejudice toward me to show proof that you judge, are not honored of trust and not qualified to sit on a bench as a judge, a judge that jumps on a person at a public place breaking and violating the laws that he is supposed to protect.
The Court: You are a fool. I will say it the last time. You do not know what you are doing.
Appellant: Well, the judge called me a fool. You heard it right here. I am a fool. But I will have your job. I'm going to sue you, judge. You called me a fool. You know the Bible says do not call nobody no fool and you just called me a fool three or four times.
The Court: You are. You keep acting the way you do, this thing is going to be checked around from judge to judge and you are going to be in the penitentiary forever. I am worried about you, because you- -you are so- -you do not know what you are doing. That's right, you are so foolish.
Appellant: I am so foolish, right? Remember? I am a fool. That is what you just said, judge.
The Court: I do not know that anybody is capable of handling Mr. Robinson's case. He has acted in such a way that I cannot do it fairly. I am recusing. I am not going to mess with him anymore. Judge Glover has already recused, I think. That concludes my business for today.

         Appellant appeared before Judge Glover on July 6, 2015, for a hearing. When asked if he had a lawyer, the following took place:

Appellant: No sir, I am representing myself.
The Court: Okay. Do you understand you have the right to be represented by counsel?
Appellant: Yes, sir.
The Court: And you have the right to represent yourself as well. Have you ever had a lawyer to represent you?
Appellant: I had one but I fired him, because he was not doing his job. I would not have a problem with a lawyer if he was fighting for my United States Constitution of America rights and my Arkansas Constitution of America rights of due process of law; both of them, and of the ninth amendment too.
I am invoking, which it means calling upon my constitutional rights, right now. Because you did sign the Arkansas Constitution, article 19, section 20, oath of office, of public offices, when you got your job. You did say, I do solemnly swear to affirm that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of Arkansas. And without doing that, this case is that that would be perjury, because if you do not support the Constitution of the United States and Arkansas Constitution. And if you are found guilty of perjury, you can get two years in the penitentiary [be]cause you violated my fifth amendment of United States Constitution of America, of due process of law.
And also, you have violated my Arkansas Constitution, article 2, declaration of rights, section 8, due process of law, but not limited to all my rights. The fourth amendment, the fifth [a]mendment, the sixth amendment, the eight amendment, the ninth amendment and the 14th amendment of the United States Constitution of America, you all have violated, infringed and abridged, meaning to cut short, to belittle. So I am invoking, calling upon, my rights as of today.
The Court: Well, just slow down a bit now. First of all, I am not on trial this morning, but you are. And I understand you are at omnibus hearing.
Appellant: I want my constitutional right issues. My fundamental rights of due process. You all are violating them.
The Court: Well, exercise your rights in whatever way you need to. Now, what I normally do in cases- -you have the right to represent yourself. Normally, in cases like this, I will [ap]point a standby lawyer who will be accessible to you for any legal assistance or help, or footwork, that you might request of him or her. And I am going to institute that process if it is not in existence already.
The public defender's office will serve as a standby lawyer to research and will assist you in any way you want him to assist you. He will not be compelled until you serve or take advantage of your constitutional right to represent yourself.
Now, there is going to be a jury trial. There's going to be rules of criminal procedure, whether you represent yourself or whether somebody else assist you, whoever handles the case will be required to follow. And being a lawyer is very similar to being a physician. Most of us, we will all have medical issues. We go and get the assistance of a doctor if we want to. That is the option we have. Some of us may work on our ailments ourselves. But you ultimately have your right to work on these issues yourself. I just want you to know that I am going to appoint a standby lawyer for your benefit.
I am going to give you time to go through all of your motions. The public defender will be available. You can talk to him if you want to; it is not required. Then I am going to call you up later. I am going to continue this momentarily.
I am going to call up Mr. Robinson. Mr. Robinson, I have read your previous case, and I am going to consider your pleadings as a motion for me to recuse. And I am going to do that. I am going to recuse and assign it to another judge to hear this matter. So you will ...

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