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Paty v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 30, 2014

TYRUNE PATY A/K/A TYRUNE P. PATY A/K/A TYRUNE PATRICE PATY, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: OKTIBBEHA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/01/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. LEE SORRELS COLEMAN. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: CONVICTED OF POSSESSION OF COCAINE IN AN AMOUNT GREATER THAN 0.1 GRAM BUT LESS THAN TWO GRAMS AND SENTENCED AS A SUBSEQUENT DRUG OFFENDER TO SIXTEEN YEARS IN THE CUSTODY OF MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, WITH FOUR YEARS SUSPENDED, TWELVE YEARS TO SERVE, AND FOUR YEARS OF POST-RELEASE SUPERVISION, AND TO PAY A FINE OF $2,400.

AFFIRMED.

FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER, BY: GEORGE T. HOLMES, PHILLIP BROADHEAD.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: JEFFREY A. KLINGFUSS.

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

Page 851

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

MAXWELL, J.

¶1. In his trial for cocaine possession, Tyrune Paty chose to represent himself. He was convicted and now seeks a new trial. On the one hand, he claims the judge should not have granted his request to proceed pro se. On the other hand, he accuses his appointed counsel--who was ordered to stay on as his procedural advisor--of interfering with his right to self-representation.

¶2. Neither of Paty's propositions is supported by the record. Instead, the record shows Paty, after being properly informed, knowingly and voluntarily elected to represent himself. And his appointed counsel, in her role as advisor, ably assisted and enabled Paty to present his theory of defense. Thus, no new trial is warranted. We affirm.

Background

I. Paty's Decision to Represent Himself

¶3. Paty was indicted for possessing more than one-tenth but less than two grams of cocaine. The court appointed public defender Stephanie Mallette as his counsel. Mallette had previously represented Paty on a separate drug charge, for which Paty had pled guilty and was out on parole. Apparently, Paty was dissatisfied with Mallette's handling of that case. On July 24, 2012, Paty penned a letter to a circuit judge asking that Mallete be removed because she had mishandled his prior drug charge. But the letter was written and sent to a different circuit judge than the one assigned to his present drug case.

¶4. Trial was scheduled to begin on Tuesday, October 30, 2012. The Friday before, Paty insisted Mallette file a motion to continue so he could " think over some things." The motion was heard on Monday, October 29. At the hearing, Mallette

Page 852

presented Paty's request and his justification for seeking a continuance. But Mallette was candid with the court that she was prepared to go to trial and had no concrete reason to postpone. The judge denied a continuance.

¶5. Before the hearing ended, Mallette raised " the need to address the issue of whether [she was] representing Mr. Paty or he [was] representing himself." The judge responded that, since no request had been made, there was no ruling to make. Mallette then informed the judge that Paty had " intermittently changed his mind between representing himself and firing [her]." The judge turned to Paty and informed him that he was not going to appoint another public defender. Paty then made a host of accusations against Mallette. He accused her of forging his signature, " speed-ball[ing] over [him]," and threatening him during her representation in the other drug charge. Hearing this, the judge explained to Paty that this proceeding was not the proper forum to argue over the validity of his guilty plea in that other case. The hearing ultimately concluded with Paty seemingly satisfied to continue with Mallette representing him.

¶6. But by the very next day--the first day of trial--Paty had changed his mind. Before voir dire, at Paty's request, Mallette made an ore tenus motion to withdraw as Paty's counsel so he could represent himself. The judge then examined Paty. After providing Paty all the required information and warnings under Rule 8.05, the judge concluded on the record that Paty's decision to proceed pro se was knowing and voluntary. See URCCC 8.05. The judge then exercised his discretion to appoint Mallette as standby counsel to help Paty with procedural matters. See id.

II. Paty's Defense Theory

¶7. At Paty's request, Mallette participated in voir dire. But Paty opted to make his own opening statement. He also cross-examined the State's witnesses--the two officers who arrested Paty after they found a bag of what appeared to be cocaine lying in plain sight in his vehicle and ...


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