FROM THE HOWARD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 31CR-16-75]
HONORABLE TOM COOPER, JUDGE
Law Firm, by: Lee D. Short, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Christian Harris, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, JUDGE.
Howard County Circuit Court jury convicted Melchizedek
Shabazz of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver,
and he was sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment in the
Arkansas Department of Correction. He appeals, claiming that
he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel at his
suppression hearing. We agree.
morning of May 23, 2016, Howard County Deputy Sheriff Joey
Davis stopped Shabazz's vehicle for speeding. Deputy
Davis smelled the odor of "green" marijuana and saw
several small pieces of a green, leafy substance-possibly
marijuana-on the console. Shabazz admitted to Deputy Davis
that he smoked marijuana earlier that morning and that there
was some marijuana in the car. He then handed Deputy Davis a
small container that contained a small amount of marijuana.
Thereafter, Deputy Davis conducted a search of the vehicle,
which revealed a brown paper sack containing 28 small white
zipper-lock bags containing a substance believed to be
marijuana. A search of the trunk revealed four white trash
bags containing over 45 different containers and bags of
suspected marijuana-many of which were labeled and appeared
to have come from a marijuana dispensary. In total, the
suspected marijuana weighed approximately eight pounds.
was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana with
intent to deliver. He was appointed counsel to represent him
on the charges. On June 3, 2016, his counsel filed a motion
to suppress, alleging that Shabazz's arrest was unlawful
because the officer lacked probable cause or reasonable
suspicion to stop, detain, or arrest him; that the stop,
detention, and arrest of Shabazz was merely a pretext for an
investigation; that the officer lacked consent to search the
vehicle or a search warrant to do so; and that the search of
the vehicle was therefore unlawful, unreasonable, and without
probable cause. On June 7, 2016, Shabazz filed a pro se
motion to suppress evidence and dismiss, alleging that the
officer lacked consent to search the vehicle; that the
officer lacked cause to search the vehicle under Rule 12.4 of
the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure; and that the
initial stop was illegal.
8, 2016, the court conducted a pretrial hearing. Shabazz was
present at the hearing with his appointed counsel. The court
questioned why Shabazz was filing pro se motions while being
represented by appointed counsel. Shabazz responded that he
believed that his counsel was ineffective, stated that
counsel had not been in contact with him, and explained that
he was unhappy with the standard motion to suppress filed by
counsel. The following colloquy between the court and Shabazz
The Court: Let me ask you something real quick to cut to the
point-cut to the chase. Do you wish to represent yourself?
The Defendant: No, sir.
court then explained to Shabazz that he was represented by
counsel, who had filed motions on his behalf, and the court
would not permit pro se motions that competed against those
of counsel. The court then informed Shabazz that he could
file his own motions only if he represented himself. Shabazz
responded with more protests about the effectiveness of his
appointed counsel. The court responded that it would not
"micromanage" the public defender but told Shabazz
that he could represent himself if he did not like the
representation afforded by appointed counsel. Shabazz asked
the court to appoint him a different attorney. The court
denied the request. When Shabazz continued to argue that his
counsel was clearly ineffective, the court responded:
The Court: I'll say it one more time, and that's the
last time I'm going to say it, I will let you represent
yourself. You have that constitutional right. I am not going
to micromanage the way attorneys represent their clients.
The Defendant: Well, yes, sir, I would like to represent
point in the proceeding, Shabazz's appointed counsel
handed to him the discovery received from the State and the
motions that had been filed by counsel on his behalf. The
following colloquy between the court and Shabazz occurred:
The Court: And I'm going to let you represent yourself,
but I'm going to just give you one little spiel that I
tell people that want to represent themselves. You know, you
haven't been trained in the law. Do you have a college
The Defendant: No, sir.
The Court: And you obviously haven't been to law school.
I tell people all the time, I've tried 150 jury trials
when I was prosecutor and I wouldn't represent myself.
With that in mind, do you still wish to represent yourself?
The Court: Mr. Shabazz?
The Defendant: Sir?
The Court: Do you still wish to represent yourself?
The Court: I'll ask you one more time. Do you still wish
to represent yourself?
The Defendant: Your Honor, at this - I would like to continue
to proceed with [counsel] at this time-. And so I can read
this thing that he has-.
that Shabazz desired to continue with appointed counsel, the
court then began to reschedule the motions and jury-trial
settings to a subsequent date during the month of August.
When Shabazz learned that the hearing on his motions would
not be heard until August, the following colloquy between the
court and Shabazz occurred:
The Defendant: On August 10?
The Court: August 10.
The Defendant: Oh, no, sir. If-. I would proceed for myself
today instead of sit in jail, Your Honor. I'd rather
proceed myself today.
The Court: You'd like to go to trial next ...