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Herrington v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, First Division

July 8, 2015

HERRINGTON
v.
THE STATE

Effective assistance of counsel. Newton Superior Court. Before Judge Ott.

William D. Hoffer, for appellant.

Layla H. Zon, District Attorney, Randal M. McGinley, Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.

PHIPPS, Presiding Judge. Doyle, C. J., and Boggs, J., concur.

OPINION

Phipps, Presiding Judge.

While represented by trial counsel, Johnny Herrington was found guilty of possession of

Page 196

an illegal weapon (sawed-off shotgun),[1] giving false information to a law enforcement officer,[2] and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.[3] He appeals the convictions, contending that the trial court erred by denying him the right to represent himself at trial, and by determining that he was not denied effective assistance of trial counsel. We affirm.

1. Herrington contends that the trial court erred by denying him the right to represent himself at trial. Because Herrington did not unequivocally assert the right to represent himself before trial, this contention is without merit.

Both the federal and state constitutions guarantee a criminal defendant the right to self-representation.[[4]] An [332 Ga.App. 829] unequivocal assertion of the right to represent oneself, made prior to trial, should be followed by a hearing to ensure that the defendant knowingly and intelligently waives the right to counsel and understands the disadvantages of self-representation.[5]

On the morning of trial, before the jury was impaneled, and while he was being represented by counsel from the public defender's office, Herrington announced to the court, " I would like to replace my counsel."

The court asked Herrington who he had hired to replace his attorney. Herrington replied, " I don't have one." The court replied that the case was going to trial that morning, and that Herrington could either represent himself or " bring in" another attorney. Herrington said, " I will represent myself."

The court then explained some of the dangers of self-representation, inquired as to Herrington's reasons for dissatisfaction with his attorney and his possible defenses to the charges, and asked the state about the charges in the case. The court then announced:

You may fire [the defense attorney] and represent yourself, you said you already want to do that, and that's against my advice. I am strongly advising you not to, but you have already told me you don't know the law. You ...

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