Providence County Superior Court
For Plaintiff: Shannon G. Signore, Esq.
For Defendant: John J. Eddy, pro se Rhode Island Public Defender's Office
Before the Court is John J. Eddy's (Defendant or Mr. Eddy) appeal of a Superior Court Magistrate's decision denying his motion to correct an illegal sentence or reduce a sentence pursuant to Rule 35 of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. On appeal, the Defendant alleges that he was denied counsel during his sentencing hearing in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights and requests that this Court grant him a new sentencing hearing. Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 8-2-11.1(d).
Facts and Travel
The Trial and Sentencing Hearing
On April 21, 2004, the Defendant was indicted on three counts of first-degree child molestation sexual assault and two counts of first-degree sexual assault. Over the course of the next two years, the Court provided the Defendant with three competent and experienced attorneys, all of whom the Defendant discharged. The matter proceeded to trial on February 22, 2006. On the morning that the trial commenced, the Defendant asked whether the trial justice would consider appointing the Defendant an attorney, should the Defendant make such a request. The trial justice informed the Defendant that he would not grant a request for counsel on the morning that the trial was scheduled to begin. The trial justice noted that the Defendant had chosen not to request counsel, despite many previous opportunities to do so. The next day, after the jury was empaneled and sworn, the Defendant affirmatively requested counsel for the purpose of discussing plea negotiations. The Court denied the Defendant's request for counsel.
On February 24, 2006, a jury found the Defendant guilty on all counts. Mr. Eddy claims that he filed a Motion to Appoint Counsel to represent him in his sentencing hearing on March 20, 2006. In his Motion, the Defendant requested that the Court appoint him counsel prior to any sentencing proceedings because he could not "properly conduct the upcoming sentencing matter as he [had] no knowledge of how to do it and [had] no access to relevant factors to the sentencing." Def.'s Mot. to Appoint Counsel. On April 21, 2006, the trial justice held a hearing on the Defendant's Motion. At the start of the hearing, the trial justice informed the Defendant that the sentencing hearing was scheduled to take place on May 19, 2006. Hr'g Tr. 1:13-14, Apr. 21, 2006. After the trial justice informed the Defendant that he had a right to appeal his conviction following sentencing, the Defendant reinvoked his right to have counsel present at his sentencing hearing. The pertinent portion of the hearing transcript reads:
"The Defendant: I would, you know, I know that the State has objected, and I would re-invoke my right to counsel, to be represented by counsel at that sentencing date, and would like Your Honor to take that under consideration. I did ask on the 23rd of February for counsel, and I'm assuming that request is still . . . I know it was denied on the 23rd, but I would like counsel to represent me at the sentencing date." Id. at 4:22-5:4.
The State's attorney objected on the grounds that the Defendant had dismissed three lawyers throughout the course of the hearing and had waived his right to be represented at sentencing. Id. at 6:7-8, 2:11-12. The trial justice ultimately agreed with the State's attorney and denied the Defendant's request. Id. at 6:9. The pertinent portion of the hearing transcript reads:
"The Court: I'm going to deny the request . . . The State has given you three attorneys already. The record will speak for itself, the manner with which you undertook your own defense in this matter. You can't change your mind every five seconds about whether or not you wish to be represented or not. You have had a constitutional guarantee of three reasonably well-qualified attorneys to undertake your defense. You discharged all three of them." Id. at 6:9-19.
The Defendant disagreed with the trial justice and stated that his right to counsel at sentencing was "guaranteed" and once again reinvoked his right to an attorney. Id. at 7:9-11. The trial justice responded,
"The Court: You may do so. Perhaps the Supreme Court may agree with you. I think I have to do what I think is appropriate here based on the travel of this case which I've been involved with for over a year. This is not checkers where you can change your mind every other day about who you would like to represent you or how you want to represent yourself. You had more than ample opportunity to have fine, competent attorneys, and you discharged them, so I feel I have discharged my responsibilities to you all the way . . . I would be willing to appoint someone, appoint the Public Defender to represent you for purposes of appeal upon sentencing, but I'm not going to appoint somebody else for sentencing. You can represent your own views at that time." Id. at 7:12-8:3.
On May 19, 2006, the trial justice conducted the sentencing hearing. At the start of the hearing, the Defendant informed the trial justice that he had never received a copy of the presentence report that the trial justice had referred to at the close of the April 21st hearing. Sentencing Hrg. Tr. 1:14-20, May 19, 2006. After the trial justice provided the Defendant with a copy of the presentence report, the Defendant requested additional time to review the report and file objections. Id. at 1-2. The trial justice informed the Defendant that he did not have standing to object to the report and refused the Defendant's requests. Id. at 2:8:11.
The hearing proceeded and the Defendant once again told the Court that he did not know how to conduct a sentencing hearing and repeated his request for an attorney. Id. at 17:8-13. The trial justice denied his request and reiterated that the Defendant had discharged three attorneys that the Court had previously appointed for him. Id. at 17:24-18:7. The pertinent portion of the sentencing hearing transcript reads:
"The Defendant: Your Honor, as previously mentioned by the defendant, I can't do this. I mean, I don't know how to do a sentencing hearing. I asked back on April 28th for an attorney to represent me for this sentencing hearing and it would be the same thing. I don't know how to address this.
. . . .
"The Court: Well, the Court is going to deny your request for an attorney as I have in the past. You have already gone through three. Your right of allocution at this time is simply to give you an opportunity to tell this Court what you think about this sentencing. If you don't wish to do that, that is perfectly fine. You have a right to do that." Id.
Following the sentencing hearing, the trial justice sentenced the Defendant to life imprisonment on each of the first three counts of first-degree child molestation sexual assault, the sentences to run concurrently. On the last two counts of first degree sexual assault, the trial justice sentenced the Defendant to life imprisonment, the sentences to run concurrently with each other, but to run consecutively to the sentences imposed for the first three counts. The Defendant timely appealed his conviction to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. On appeal, the Defendant argued that he had not voluntarily waived his right to counsel during his trial. He also argued that the trial justice had erred when he refused to appoint counsel to represent the Defendant on the morning his trial began. Notably, the Defendant did not appeal the trial justice's decision denying his request for counsel during the sentencing hearing. On June 26, 2013, the Court issued an opinion, State v. Eddy, 68 A.3d 1089 (R.I. 2013), affirming the judgment of conviction.
In its opinion, the Court noted that the Defendant had discharged three competent attorneys and had "repeatedly and forcefully" requested to proceed as a self-represented litigant. The Court stated that the trial justice had warned the Defendant of the perils of representing himself, on several occasions. Id. at 1100. The Court also noted that the Defendant had a "colorful history of requesting representation, then stridently demanding that his attorneys be discharged." Id. at 1102. The Court determined that the record contained "ample evidence to support the trial justice's conclusion that defendant had attempted to delay the proceedings at every stage of [the] case." Id. Thus, the Court held that the Defendant had voluntarily waived his right to counsel and that the trial justice had not erred when he refused to appoint new counsel to the Defendant on the morning trial was set to commence. Id.
May 29, 2015 Hearing Before the ...