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Name: People v. Bolton
Case #: D050721
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 08/27/2008

A defendant is not required to choose between the constitutional rights to speedy trial and assistance of counsel when he has not created the circumstances causing him to have to choose. Appellant was charged with several counts of assault-type behavior resulting from two separate incidents. Prior to trial, two attorneys had declared conflicts and withdrawn. At an in camera proceeding four days before trial, at which appellant was not present, the third attorney advised the court that appellant had been verbally abusive to the attorney’s staff; that he suspected appellant was going to offer perjured testimony; and that he suspected appellant was “hiding” a potential defense witness. In court, in response to the court’s query, the attorney agreed that he and appellant had reached a point of impasse. The court then granted counsel’s motion to be relieved because of a conflict. When appellant refused to waive time to allow a new attorney to prepare for trial, the court granted appellant’s reluctant request to represent himself. Appellant was subsequently convicted of five of the charged offenses, the jury deadlocking only on the terrorist threat count. The appellate court found that the trial court erred in relieving counsel because the attorney failed to establish that a sufficient conflict existed. There was no record that appellant had threatened counsel’s life and even if he had, threats against counsel’s life do not give rise to a conflict. As to the attorney’s suspicion that appellant would give perjured testimony, the attorney did not personally know it to be true and any potential ethical concern could be handled by permitting appellant to testify in a narrative manner. The court found that because it could not be concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that the assistance of counsel in cross-examining witnesses and challenging the admission of evidence would not have affected the verdicts, the verdicts could not stand and the matter was reversed for a new trial.