1. “Is the statutory right to withdraw a waiver of counsel under article 1.051(h) absolute or subject to restrictions?”
2. “What admonishments does Faretta (or article 1.051) require for a defendant who initially contests guilt but later pleads guilty?”
3. “Did the court below correctly conclude that no Faretta admonishments were required where Appellant initially contested his guilt?”
Huggins was appointed counsel in a felony drug offense. He informed the court he wanted to waive his right to counsel, and his attorney filed a motion to withdraw. The trial court appointed him a second attorney, but he again reasserted his right to self-representation and was allowed to proceed pro se. The case was set for a jury trial, and after the venire panel was qualified and seated, Huggins asked to waive the jury and enter a guilty plea. He then asked for counsel. The trial court denied this last request, recounting that Huggins had already gotten rid of two prior attorneys and had previously manipulated the system by alternately asserting his right to proceed pro se so he could have his pro se motions heard. Huggins represented himself at the open plea of guilty and contested sentencing hearing.
On appeal Huggins argued that (1) under Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 1.051(h), he had the right to withdraw his waiver of counsel “at any time” and (2) a lack of Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975), warnings rendered his waiver of counsel unknowing and involuntary. The court of appeals, relying on Medley v. State, 47 S.W.3d 17 (Tex. App.—Amarillo 2000, pet. ref’d), held that despite the plain language of Art. 1.051(h), a defendant who wants to reclaim his right to counsel has the burden to show his reassertion of the right would not interfere with the orderly administration of court business, result in unnecessary delay or inconvenience to witness, or prejudice the State. It ruled that Huggins had not met this burden and the trial court thus acted within its discretion. As to the voluntariness of his waiver of counsel, the court of appeals followed Hatten v. State, 71 S.W.3d 332, 334 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002), a misdemeanor appeal that held Faretta admonishments are required only when guilt is contested. It also held that Huggins’s waiver of counsel was knowing and voluntary since he (1) had twice signed a “Waiver of Counsel” document indicating he was knowingly waiving his right to representation by counsel and requesting the case proceed without an attorney being appointed, and (2) he had a reasonable understanding of the legal process as indicated in conversations on the record and suggested by his two prior felony convictions.
Huggins argues that the court of appeals engrafted non-statutory restrictions on Art. 1.051(h)’s unrestricted statutory right to withdraw a waiver of counsel “at any time.” He contends Medley determined a claim under the Sixth Amendment, not Art. 1.051. In his second and third issues, he argues Faretta requires admonishments in every pro se case and particularly in his, where he contested guilt for nearly two years before deciding to plead guilty without the benefit of counsel and where there were contested sentencing issues. He also urges the court to reconsider its precedent given Supreme Court caselaw since Faretta.