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Gibbs v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

December 10, 2013

MATTHEW GIBBS A/K/A MATTHEW GIBBES, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: SMITH COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/10/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. SAMAC S. RICHARDSON. TRIAL COURT CONVICTED OF BURGLARY OF A DWELLING AND SENTENCED TO TWENTY-FIVE YEARS IN THE CUSTODY OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND ORDERED TO PAY $30,000 IN RESTITUTION.

DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED.

FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: ERIN E. PRIDGEN.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: LADONNA C. HOLLAND.

BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., ISHEE AND CARLTON, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., BARNES, ROBERTS, CARLTON, MAXWELL, FAIR AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR.

OPINION

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

ISHEE, J.

¶1. In May 2009, Matthew Gibbs was indicted for burglary of a dwelling. He was initially represented by retained counsel, who moved for a continuance of Gibbs's trial until the next term of court. Over a year later, Gibbs's retained counsel moved to withdraw due to nonpayment of his fees and due to Gibbs's refusal to communicate with him for over a year. The Smith County Circuit Court granted the motion. The circuit court then appointed a public defender to represent Gibbs. The public defender had to withdraw as Gibbs's counsel due to a conflict of interest. The circuit court appointed Gibbs new counsel

Page 2

and set a new trial date in May 2012. Gibbs, however, fired the newly appointed counsel and told the circuit court he wished to retain his own counsel. Gibbs also requested that the circuit court delay the trial once again. The circuit court allowed Gibbs the option to retain counsel, but refused to continue the trial again since the matter had been pending for almost three years due, in large part, to Gibbs's own actions or inactions. Gibbs appeared for trial without retained counsel and indicated that he intended to proceed pro se. The circuit court appointed Gene Tullos to serve as " arm-chair representation" for Gibbs and, after extensive questioning, allowed Gibbs to represent himself. At the close of the trial, the jury returned a guilty verdict. The circuit court sentenced Gibbs to twenty-five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) and ordered him to pay $30,000 in restitution. Gibbs now appeals, claiming he was deprived of his constitutional right to counsel. Finding no error, we affirm.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

¶2. In May 2009, Gibbs was indicted for burglarizing a house. The indictment charged that Gibbs and his cousin, Rodney Gibbs, burglarized a home in Smith County, Mississippi, in September 2008. Gibbs and Rodney retained joint counsel after their indictment. Their counsel moved to continue the trial until the next term of court. The circuit court granted the continuance, and set the trial for the fall of 2010.

¶3. In October 2010, defense counsel requested permission to withdraw from the case. He reasoned that he had not been paid by Gibbs or his cousin, had not been in touch with them in over a year, and had no contact information for either of the men. The circuit court allowed him to withdraw, and appointed a public defender to jointly represent Gibbs and his cousin.

¶4. After the public defender negotiated a plea bargain for Rodney to enter a guilty plea in exchange for his testimony against Gibbs, the public defender asked the circuit court for permission to withdraw as Gibbs's attorney due to the conflict of interest. The circuit court allowed the public defender to ...


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