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Washington v. Staten

January 14, 1991


Winsor, J.*fn* Grosse, C.j., and Coleman, J., concur.

Author: Winsor

John Staten appeals a judgment and sentence for two counts of first degree robbery. We affirm.

Staten was arrested on the night of May 24, 1988, for a May 17, 1988, bank robbery. He was subsequently charged with committing that robbery, as well as a May 24, 1988, bank robbery. In both robberies the robber carried a lunch box which he claimed contained a bomb.

Staten's original speedy trial deadline was August 6, 1988. For reasons not contained in the record, that deadline was extended. Trial was then set for September 12, 1988. Trial did not proceed as scheduled, however, because Staten refused to come to court. Staten claimed to have medical problems which caused him so much pain he could not attend trial. A jail physician who examined Staten disagreed with Staten's self-diagnosis and opined that "defendant was in sufficient physical condition to come to Court." Nevertheless, the trial judge permitted Staten to waive speedy trial for a period sufficient to permit him to go "to Harborview Medical Center for diagnosis of whatever ailment he may have and treatment if it's necessary." Trial was then reset for October 17, with a speedy trial expiration date of October 24, 1988.

On September 28, 1988, in a proceeding for which there is no report of proceedings, Staten moved to substitute

counsel. He had been represented by Frank Calero of the Public Defenders Association (PDA). A PDA lawyer subsequently contacted the Associated Counsel for the Accused (ACA) and asked that one of their lawyers be present at a follow-up hearing on September 30. The ACA lawyer appeared at the September 30 hearing and informed the court that his office was opposed to representing Staten "[u]nless there is a legal conflict, i.e., PDA has represented a victim or a witness or something", and that ACA would not accept a trial date before the first of December.*fn1

Staten then addressed the court, arguing that

Public Defender does not have time to prepare my case. I have been in jail over four months. I have yet to see my attorney anywhere but in court. I cannot reach him by phone. There are a lot of things in my case that are just not ready. I believe Mr. Calero is an excellent attorney because I liked his arguments in the pretrial motions, but he just doesn't have time to prepare my case. I don't believe any public defender has time to prepare my case.

Your Honor, I know it boils down to economic problems, but I just want to ask the Court: How much is a human life worth? . . . It is simply difficult to prove I did not commit the crime if an attorney has no less than thirty or forty people on his case load. It is hard for an attorney to keep track of what's going on when he has forty people to deal with. . . . Your Honor, I feel like I cannot get a fair trial from the Public Defender, not because they are not good attorneys, but because they just don't have the time to prepare my case so I can have a fair trial.

Based on this and Staten's September 28 arguments, the trial judge interpreted Staten's position to be that he would only be satisfied if a private lawyer were appointed to represent him. The judge denied Staten's motion to substitute.

On October 19 the parties returned to court for pretrial matters. Attorney Calero informed the trial judge that he did not think he could adequately represent Staten because Staten would not listen to his advice. Staten then presented a written motion to substitute counsel alleging that Calero

had not: conferred with him concerning preparation of the defense, communicated with him, subpoenaed defense witnesses, performed critical investigations, prepared an affirmative defense or prepared necessary motions. Staten's motion also alleged that Calero had failed "to declare prejudice and/or conflict against declarant and due to such failure has taken on the role of a surrogate prosecutor". Staten offered no evidence supporting these allegations.*fn2

The judge then asked Calero's opinion as to whether Staten's allegations were accurate. Calero said he did not think that they were. The judge asked Calero whether he had prepared the case and whether he was ready to represent Staten. Calero answered affirmatively.*fn3 Noting that trial had already been delayed since September 12 and that he was satisfied Calero was prepared, capable ...

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