Right to Counsel

Ray Whitworth, who owned several gasoline stations/convenience stores, became concerned that one of his stores might be a target of a robbery after an employee informed him that several people were acting suspiciously near the store. Whitworth went to the store and saw a black Chevrolet Impala drive past the store several times. Whitworth went home and retrieved an AK-47 rifle. He returned to the store and once again, saw the black Impala drive by. Whit- worth warned the clerk that he thought they were about to be robbed and he went back to his car. Whitworth saw two men scale a wooden fence adjacent to the store. They pulled out guns and began walking toward the entrance. Whitworth got out of the car and yelled at the men.

They engaged in a brief shootout and the men fled. Courtney Dickerson was arrested in connection with the suspected robbery. He was appointed an attorney and was indicted for first-degree robbery. His arraignment was set for November 21, 2011. Dickerson failed to appear. His counsel moved to withdraw. Dickerson’s case was set for trial on November 13, 2012. On November 2, 2012, counsel’s motion to withdraw was granted. Dickerson failed to appear for trial and an arrest warrant was issued for him. Dicker- son was arrested on November 1, 2013. He remained incarcerated until his final hearing. On May 8, 2014, Dickerson executed an “Affidavit of Substantial Hardship” form and requested a court-appointed attorney. On June 20, 2014, the trial court denied that request. Dickerson’s trial began on August 12, 2014. Immediately before the trial started, a pro bono attorney stepped forward and asked the court to reconsider its decision not to appoint counsel. The court would not appoint an attorney and stated that Dickerson was a “capable, able-bodied man that is fully capable of working and hiring an attorney to represent him in this matter.” Dickerson represented himself during the trial and he was convicted of robbery in the first degree. He appealed.

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