Court of Appeals of Alaska (2022)
In Hinshaw v. State, 515 P.3d 129 (Alaska Ct. App. 2022), the court of appeals held that a criminal defendant must be allowed to knowingly and intelligently waive his or her right to counsel for any reason, regardless of the trial court’s own opinion. (Id. at 139–41). After unsuccessfully attempting to have his attorney dismissed, Hinshaw filed a motion to proceed pro se in a first-degree murder charge. (Id. at 131). At his representation hearing, Hinshaw acknowledged the difficulties of pro se representation and acknowledged that his attorney would be much more capable of successfully trying his case. (Id. at 132–33). He expressed a desire to represent himself because he did not trust his attorney and wanted to have control over the direction of his legal strategy. (Id. at 133). When asked if he understood that pro se representation likely meant he would lose the case, Hinshaw stated he did not understand that because he disagreed with the opinion. (Id.). In denying his request, the trial court stated that it was not convinced Hinshaw knew what he was doing or that the decision to proceed pro se was made with his eyes open. (Id. at 135). Hinshaw was convicted at trial and, after an unsuccessful direct appeal, filed an application for post-conviction relief alleging that his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the pro se denial. (Id. at 136). The court of appeals found that Hinshaw’s disagreement with the trial court’s opinion that pro se representation was ill-advised was not conclusive proof that his waiver of counsel was not knowing or intelligent. (Id. at 138). The court reasoned that since the right to self-representation is entrenched in the federal constitution, binding Supreme Court precedent required Hinshaw to be able to execute his right even if it was to his detriment. (Id.). The court reversed and remanded the case, ruling that a criminal defendant must be allowed to waive his or her right to counsel, so long as that waiver is knowing and intentional, regardless of any disagreement from the court. (Id. at 139–41).