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Challenges re right to self-representation and domestic abuse assessment fail on appeal

State v. Sandra D. Solomon, 2018AP298-CR, 9/25/18, District 1 (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

Solomon sought plea withdrawal arguing that the circuit court had denied her request to represent herself and insisted on proceeding with the scheduled trial date, so her newly-retained lawyer was not prepared to defend her. The court of appeals held that her invocation of this right was not clear and unequivocal. It also held that the domestic abuse assessment clearly applied to this case.

Right to self-representation. The court of appeals denied this claim because:

¶17  . . . To invoke the right to self-representation, a defendant must clearly and unequivocally demand the right to proceed pro se. State v. Darby, 2009 WI App 50, ¶24, 317 Wis. 2d 478, 766 N.W.2d 770. Only a clear and unequivocal demand triggers the circuit court’s obligation to ensure a valid waiver of the right to counsel and competency to proceed pro se. Id., ¶¶18-19, 24. Solomon did not clearly and unequivocally invoke her right to represent herself. Instead, she expressed concern about the cost of a lawyer and suggested that representing herself would be more cost-effective. All of Solomon’s statements concerning self-representation were, as the postconviction court stated, “non-committal phrases and amounted to nothing more than ‘musings on the benefits of self representation.’” See Darby, 317 Wis. 2d 478, ¶20. The postconviction court properly denied Solomon’s motion to withdraw her guilty plea.

Domestic abuse assessment.  On this issue, the court of appeals held that §973.055(1), the domestic abuse assessment statute,  applies to (1) convictions under §943.01, and (2) conduct committed against an adult with whom the defendant resided. The conviction and the conduct charged in this case clearly satisfied both requirements. Opinion, ¶¶20-21.


{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Peter R Heyne October 15, 2018, 9:18 am

    It is also notable that the appellate court did not simply rely on the fact that the conviction was on the laundry list of 973.055. Instead, the court affirmed the trial court’s finding that the actual conduct also met the DV arrest criteria of 968.075(1)(a), implicitly following State v. O’Boyle.

    “¶21 Moreover, we agree with the postconviction court that even had the case been charged under WIS. STAT. § 968.075, which requires a finding of an
    action that satisfies the definition supplied by that statute, the record still would support such a finding. The postconviction court cited to the victim’s statement made at sentencing which described a “long pattern of stalking and emotional abuse that preceded the offenses.” The court found that given the “context, there was more than a sufficient factual basis for the court to find Solomon’s actions … may have caused the victim to reasonably fear imminent physical harm.” We conclude that the domestic abuse assessment was properly applied to Solomon’s conviction.”

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