Competency to Stand Trial and the Right to Self-Representation

State v. Hawkins, 363 P.3d 348 (Idaho 2015)

It is not a violation of due process to make a retroactive determination, on remand, of a defendant’s competency at the time of the original trial where there is a sufficient record to support that finding. When raising an Edwards challenge for the first time on appeal, the burden is on the defendant to show fundamental error.

Background: Faron Hawkins was convicted of two counts of robbery. At trial, he admitted to robbing the banks, but contended that he did so under duress from previous involvement with agencies (including the Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency). The Court of Appeals vacated Hawkins’ conviction, holding that the district court had erred by not ordering a psychiatric evaluation and holding a competency hearing. At the competency hearing on remand, two experts determined that Hawkins was competent during the course of his legal proceedings. The state filed an interlocutory appeal based on the Court of Appeals previous language that suggested a retrospective competence hearing was disallowed. The Court of Appeals clarified that a retrospective competence hearings are permissible. On remand for the second time, the district court set another competence hearing to allow Hawkins to cross-examine witnesses and present his own expert. Before that hearing, Hawkins moved to proceed pro se, which the district court granted. After several months of delays due to Hawkins’ actions, the court proceeded to find Hawkins competent and sentence him despite his never presenting evidence regarding competency. Hawkins appealed. 

Holdings: The Supreme Court of Idaho affirmed the judgment of the district court, finding no reversible error in the actions of the court below. Specifically, the Supreme Court of Idaho found that the district court’s retroactive determination of Hawkins’ competency to stand trial did not violate his due process rights. Further, the Court held that, although a standard was not yet established for reviewing, in response to an Indiana v. Edwards challenge, a lower court’s granting of a pro se motion, the standard of review was in fact controlled by the fact that Hawkins raised the issue for the first time on appeal. Therefore, the lower court’s actions were to be reviewed under the fundamental error standard, and the Court found that Hawkins did not establish a clear violation of a constitutional right. The Court agreed with other courts that “Edwards allows, but does not require, states to insist upon representation by counsel for certain “gray-area” defendants. It does not give such a defendant a constitutional right to have his request for self-representation denied.”

Found in Found in DMHL Volume 35, Issue 1