Third Circuit Blog
In US v. Christopher D. Jones, No. 05-3001 (June 28, 2006), the 3d Circuit reiterated the stringent record a district court must make to effectively establish a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of the fundamental 6th Amendment right to counsel. Here, the court's colloquy failed to include the "penetrating and comprehensive examination" needed to permit a defendant to proceed pro se at a criminal trial. While no scripted inquiry is required, the court must cover all subjects -- to the extent they are relevant -- enumerated in the earlier case of US v. Peppers, 302 F.3d 120 (3d Cir. 2002). These include discussion of defendant's familiarity with the law, the charges, the rules of evidence and procedure, possible defense and penalties, investigating and subpoenaing witnesses, etc. An ineffective waiver of counsel, as was found here, can never be harmless error, and the conviction was vacated and the case remanded for a new trial.