Error In Appointment of a Special Counsel Where Mitigation Presented by Him Contradicted Defendant's Mitigation
In United States v. Davis, 285 F.3d 378 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 537 U.S. 1066, 123 S. Ct. 618, 154 L. Ed. 2d 555 (2002), the pro se defendant contended that he wanted to continue to assert his innocence as mitigation in the penalty phase, but the trial court appointed special counsel to develop other mitigation for consideration by the court.
The court found this appointment to be error under the circumstances, where the mitigation presented by special counsel directly contradicted the defendant's mitigation.
The Court in Davis stated:
We find that the district court's decision to appoint an independent counsel violates Davis's Sixth Amendment right to self-representation.
An individual's constitutional right to represent himself is one of great weight and considerable importance in our criminal justice system.
This right certainly outweighs an individual judge's limited discretion to appoint amicus counsel when that appointment will yield a presentation to the jury that directly contradicts the approach undertaken by the defendant. 285 F.3d at 381.
The Court of Appeals further explained:
As such, Davis's strategy is in direct conflict with the independent counsel's approach.
Because Davis's right to self-representation encompasses the right to direct trial strategy, the district court's decision to impose an independent counsel into these proceedings is overturned. 285 F.3d at 385.