The Court has held that the Sixth Amend-ment, in addition to guaranteeing the right to retained or appointed counsel, also guarantees a defendant the right to represent himself.378 It is a right the defendant must adopt knowingly and intelligently; under some circumstances the trial judge may deny the authority to exercise it, as when the defendant simply lacks the competence to make a knowing or intelligent waiver of counsel or when his self-representation is so disruptive of orderly procedures that the judge may curtail it.379 The right applies only at trial; there is no constitutional right to self-representation on direct appeal from a criminal conviction.380
The essential elements of self-representation were spelled out in McKaskle v. Wiggins,381 a case involving the self-represented defendant’s rights vis-a-vis “standby counsel” appointed by the trial court. The “core of the Faretta right” is that the defendant “is entitled to preserve actual control over the case he chooses to present to the jury,” and consequently, standby counsel’s participation “should not be allowed to destroy the jury’s perception that the defendant is representing himself.”382 But participation of standby counsel even in the jury’s presence and over the defendant’s objection does not violate the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights when serving the basic purpose of aiding the defendant in complying with routine courtroom procedures and protocols and thereby relieving the trial judge of these tasks.383
- Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975). An invitation to overrule Faretta because it leads to unfair trials for defendants was declined in Indiana v. Edwards, 128 S. Ct. 2379, 2388 (2008). Even if the defendant exercises his right to his detriment, the Constitution ordinarily guarantees him the opportunity to do so. A defendant who represents himself cannot thereafter complain that the quality of his defense denied him effective assistance of counsel. 422 U.S. at 834–35 n.46. The Court, however, has not addressed what state aid, such as access to a law library, might need to be made available to a defendant representing himself. Kane v. Garcia Espitia, 546 U.S. 9 (2005) (per curiam). Related to the right of self-representation is the right to testify in one’s own defense. Rock v. Arkansas, 483 U.S. 44 (1987) (per se rule excluding all hypnotically refreshed testimony violates right).
- The fact that a defendant is mentally competent to stand trial does not preclude a court from finding him not mentally competent to represent himself at trial. Indiana v. Edwards, 128 S. Ct. 2379 (2008). Mental competence to stand trial, however, is sufficient to ensure the right to waive the right to counsel in order to plead guilty. Godinez v. Moran, 509 U.S. 389, 398 (1993).
- Martinez v. Court of App. of Cal., Fourth App. Dist., 528 U.S. 152 (2000). The Sixth Amendment itself “does not include any right to appeal.” 528 U.S. at 160.
- 465 U.S. 168 (1984).
- 465 U.S. at 178.
- 465 U.S. at 184.