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Farretta v. California

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Brief Fact Summary. Petitioner appealed from a conviction when his waiver of the right to counsel was denied.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. While there is a sixth amendment right to counsel, that does not abrogate the defendant’s right to self-representation.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

True freedom of choice and society's interest in seeing that justice is achieved can be vindicated only if the trial court retains discretion to reject any attempted waiver of counsel and insist that the accused be tried according to the Constitution.

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Facts. Petitioner asked to represent himself, and after the trial Judge held a hearing to determine whether he could conduct his own defense, he was denied that. Faretta was then found guilty as charged and sentenced to prison when he was forced to accept a public defender. From this conviction, he appealed.

Issue. Whether a defendant may waive the right to counsel in the interest of self-representation.

Held. Justice Stewart, for the court, held “it is one thing to hold that every accused has the right to the assistance of counsel, and quite another to say that a State may compel a defendant to accept a lawyer he does not want.”

Dissent. In two dissents, both Justice Burger and Justice Blackmun write that there is nothing constitutional that requires a state to allow a defendant to conduct his own defense.

Discussion. Just as there is a sixth amendment right to counsel, a defendant also has the right to chose to represent himself.

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