JUSTICE BRENNAN, dissenting.
Adhering to my view that the death penalty is in all circumstances cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 227 (1976), I would grant certiorari and vacate the death sentence in this case.
JUSTICE MARSHALL, dissenting.
In Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975), this Court held that a defendant in a state criminal trial has a right under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to proceed without counsel if he clearly and unequivocally asks to do so. In this case, the petitioner made a motion to represent himself in which he cited Faretta. According to Faretta, when such a motion is made, the court must assure that the petitioner understands the dangers of his decision, and that the decision is knowing and voluntary, and then rule on the motion. The state trial court, however, did not make such an inquiry and effectively denied the motion. Reviewing the District Court's denial of a petition for habeas corpus, the
Federal Court of Appeals held that the state trial court had not committed reversible error because events subsequent to petitioner's assertion of the right demonstrated that petitioner's initial request was ambiguous. 732 F.2d 803 (CA11 1984). The analysis of the Court of Appeals reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the right guaranteed by Faretta. I, therefore, dissent.
The facts of this case are not in dispute. Petitioner James David Raulerson was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. His death sentence was stayed by a Federal District Court, 508 F. Supp. 381 (MD Fla. 1980), and a second sentencing hearing was scheduled to be held in state court. Before the second sentencing hearing, petitioner expressed considerable dissatisfaction with his attorney, and the attorney asked the court's permission to withdraw. The court denied the motion. Thereafter, on July 15, 1980, three weeks prior to the second sentencing hearing, Raulerson asked the trial court to permit him to act as co-counsel with his attorney. The court denied his motion. Next, on July 18, petitioner wrote a letter to the trial judge specifically requesting permission to appear pro se:
"Upon calling [court-appointed counsel] Mr. Busch today I am met with cold indifference. . . .
"With these things to your attention I wish to make motions to:
"1. appear pro se (Faretta vs. California) 95 S. Ct. 2525. . . . I cannot persist being no part of my defense. . . ." Pet. for Cert. 9.
The state court provided a copy of the letter to counsel and did nothing more. At the start of the sentencing hearing, the trial judge told Raulerson that under Florida law he could appear as co-counsel and that if he "continues to wish to participate in the representation of himself," id., at 6, he would allow him to participate as co-counsel. In other words, the trial judge instructed Raulerson precisely to the contrary of what the law is, indicating that he could not proceed on his own but could proceed as co-counsel. Later in the hearing, the trial judge reversed himself and held that Raulerson could not ...