Constitutional Law

Convicted man whose request to represent himself was 'virtually ignored' gets new murder trial

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The Georgia Supreme Court has unanimously reversed the 2010 murder conviction of a defendant who asked to represent himself but then saw his request “virtually ignored” both by the trial court and his own lawyer.

A hearing should have been held to determine if Ulysses Wiggins had made a knowing and intelligent waiver of his right to counsel and understood the dangers of proceeding on his own, Chief Justice Hugh Thompson wrote in the supreme court’s Tuesday opinion (PDF).

Instead, the trial judge and Wiggins’ counsel seemed to assume that he had changed his mind about handling the defense on his own, since he didn’t object immediately before trial to having attorney Padro “Pete” Quezada represent him, the supreme court explains. Quezada died of a heart attack about 14 months after his client was convicted, a Daily Report (sub. req.) article notes.

News reports say then-Chattahoochee Circuit Superior Court Judge John Allen was the trial judge in the Muscogee County case.

Wiggins was represented on appeal by Long Vo of Georgia Capital Defenders.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer also has a story.

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