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Second Circuit — Right of Counsel: United States v. Kerr

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Right of Counsel

Competency — Delay of Proceedings

United States v. Kerr
Judges Kearse, Parker and Hall

Background: The defendant appealed from a conviction following his mid-trial guilty plea of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamines. He was sentenced to 121 months’ imprisonment. The defendant had fired his first two court appointed attorneys, insisted on several ill-advised theories of defense to the exclusion of all others, and underwent a court-ordered competency examination. After securing a third attorney, he pled guilty midway through his trial. At sentencing, his attorney expressed concern about the defendant’s mental instability. He also stated that the defendant’s behavior left the defense unprepared for sentencing.

Ruling: The Second Circuit affirmed. The court found that the district court was not required to hold a competency hearing before accepting his guilty plea. It was entitled to rely on the forensic report that found him competent to understand the proceedings. Further, given the defendant’s behavior in firing his previous attorneys and submission of pro se briefs, it was reasonable for the court to deny his motion to withdraw his plea. The defendant has no right to delay the proceedings by continually alternating his position on counsel.

Katherine Alfieri for the defendant-appellant; Rajit S. Dosnajh, assistant United States attorney for the appellee