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State v. Howard

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2

November 28, 2017

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent,
v.
RICHARD CARL HOWARD II, aka KING MILLER, Appellant.

          MAXA, J.

         Richard Howard appeals his conviction of unlawful imprisonment. Howard argues that his decision to represent himself was not made knowingly and intelligently because the trial court did not inform him of the maximum sentences for the crimes charged against him.

         We hold that Howard's waiver of his right to counsel was invalid and the trial court erred in allowing Howard to represent himself because the trial court did not inform him of the maximum sentences for the charged crimes and the record does not otherwise show that he knew the maximum sentences. In the unpublished portion of this opinion, we address and reject claims that Howard asserts in a statement of additional grounds.

         Accordingly, we reverse Howard's conviction and remand for a new trial.

         FACTS

         Incident

         Howard had been in an on-and-off romantic relationship with Brandy Wright and was living in her house. On April 13, 2016, Howard and Wright got into an argument and Wright decided to leave the house. After packing some things, she attempted to leave through the front door. Howard stopped Wright from leaving by standing in front of the door and holding her.

         Wright then tried to go to the back door. Howard grabbed her and pulled her back. They were yelling at each other and although Wright said that she wanted to leave, Howard would not let her go. Wright ran toward a bedroom and tried to get out through the window. Howard again pulled her back, out of the window and into the house. Eventually, Howard let Wright leave through the front door.

         The State charged Howard with unlawful imprisonment and fourth degree assault.

         Motion for Self-Representation

         Before trial, Howard made a motion to represent himself. Defense counsel stated that Howard had represented himself in previous cases. When the trial court expressed concerns about Howard representing himself, Howard stated, "It is my constitutional right to proceed pro se, and I would just like to exercise it." Report of Proceedings (RP) (June 29, 2016) at 8.

         The trial court and Howard engaged in a brief colloquy, which included the following exchange:

THE COURT: Well, I believe that you're competent to stand trial. That's not the issue here. But whether you have any ability to really maintain a legitimate defense and a thoughtful defense when you are dealing with a prosecutor with many years of experience and years of legal training is the concern that I have. And it's a concern about your due process rights because the scales are not balanced in your favor under that sort of a match up.
The Court will not be giving you any special dispensation. The Court will not be giving you any legal advice. The Court will not be changing the rules simply because you are an unrepresented person. You will be held to the same standards as everybody else.
Do you understand that?
MR. HOWARD: Yes.
THE COURT: I don't know what your offender score is, so I can't tell you exactly what your sentencing range would be. But you are charged with unlawful imprisonment and assault in the fourth degree.
In the event of conviction, there is likely to be a substantial period of imprisonment involved. Do you understand that?
MR. HOWARD: Yes, sir.

RP (June 29, 2016) at 8-9 (emphasis added).

         The trial court then entered an order granting Howard's motion to represent himself. The order stated that Howard had made a "knowing, intelligent, and voluntarily [sic] waiver of counsel." Clerk's Papers (CP) at 124.

         Conviction and Sentence

         The jury found Howard guilty of the unlawful imprisonment charge and not guilty of the assault charge. The court sentenced Howard to 51 months, the lower end of the standard sentence range.

         Howard appeals his conviction.

         ANALYSIS

         Howard argues that his decision to represent himself and waive his right to counsel was not knowing and intelligent because the trial court did not inform him of the maximum penalty associated with his charge ...


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