THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE. IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS
PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 239(d)(2), SCACR.
THE STATE OF
In The Court of Appeals
The State Respondent,
Dwight Fitzgerald Jones Appellant.
D. Garrison Hill, Circuit Court Judge
Unpublished Opinion No. 2006-UP-343
Submitted October 1, 2006 – Filed October 12, 2006
Chief Attorney Joseph L. Savitz, III, of the
South Carolina Office of Appellate Defense, of Columbia, for Appellant.
Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, Assistant Attorney General Derrick K. McFarland; and Solicitor W. Barney Giese, of Columbia, for Respondent.
PER CURIAM: Dwight Fitzgerald Jones appeals his conviction for murder and assault and battery with intent to kill. Jones argues the trial judge abused his discretion by disregarding Jones’ request to proceed pro se. We affirm.
On February 25, 2001, an altercation at a sports bar in
Later in the trial, another in camera, ex parte discussion was held. Jones’ counsel informed the court:
My client indicates to me that he continues to have dissatisfaction with the way that the case is proceeding and with me. He indicated a moment ago that he might like to just switch and be the one to ask questions of the witnesses himself.
We had a discussion about the way things are going and he has become increasingly unhappy with me and I … think he wishes to address the court.
Jones stated discontent with his lawyer’s cross-examination of several witnesses who had identified Jones as the shooter. He presented several specific examples of questions he believed should have been asked and that he had suggested to his attorney during the trial. In response, his counsel elucidated her reasoning and strategy and pointed out that some of the questions Jones mentioned had in fact been asked. The court averred as to the risks presented by many Jones’ recommendations for cross-examination and noted it is difficult for an attorney to take suggestions from his or her client, when at the same time, he or she is listening to the opposing side’s direct examination.
The judge went so far as to ask directly, “What is it that you want me to do?” Jones gave no answer but merely replied with a continuation of his complaint regarding questions that had not been asked. The court then stated, “You certainly have the right to represent yourself … but I think you’d be ill-served by making that choice. But if you continue to have problems, I certainly will be glad to hear from you if you want to proceed on your own, okay?” Jones’ responded, “Okay, thank you.” At no point in this discussion or at any time during the trial did Jones move or even indicate that he wished to appear pro se.
The jury found Jones guilty of all four counts. He was sentenced to thirty years for murder and five years imprisonment for each of the three counts of assault and battery with intent to kill.
On appeal, Jones argues the trial court erred by denying his request to proceed pro se. We disagree.
A defendant has a constitutional right to self-representation under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. Faretta v.
There is nothing in the record to indicate that Jones ever requested self-representation, let alone did so in manner that could be interpreted as a clear assertion the right. Jones contends he motioned to appear pro se when his lawyer made the previously quoted statement regarding Jones’ dissatisfaction with his counsel, which included the remark, “he [Jones] might like to just switch and be the one to ask questions of the witnesses himself.”
Besides expressing his unhappiness with his attorney, this colloquy merely mentions that Jones “might like” to represent himself. The circumstances and ensuing inquiry allowed the judge to see that Jones concerns were properly addressed and conclude that he was not requesting to proceed pro se. This query was proper, for the trial judge has the responsibility to ensure that the accused is informed of the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation and that he makes a knowing and intelligent waiver of the right to counsel. Faretta, 422
Even in the event the conversation at issue amounted to a definite motion to proceed pro se, based on the timing of the issue being raised, denial of the request was not an abuse of discretion by the court. The right to represent oneself must be asserted by the defendant before the trial begins. State v. Sims, 304 S.C. 409, 415, 405 S.E.2d 377, 381 (1991);
Accordingly, Jones’ convictions are
ANDERSON, HUFF, and SHORT, JJ., concur.
 We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.
 The trial record actually stops at the end of the judge’s question, thus cutting off Jones reply. However, his response is provided in the State’s brief to this court. Jones makes no challenge as to the factual accuracy of this information.