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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. NATHAN OWENS (10/27/81)

decided: October 27, 1981.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA,
v.
NATHAN OWENS, APPELLANT



No. 180 January Term, 1979, Appeal from judgments of sentence dated January 16, 1979, by Stanley L. Kubacki, J., Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, Criminal Trial Division, No. 1365 August Term, 1978 (In re: Contempt, Misc. No. 7900-5411).

COUNSEL

Elias B. Landau, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Robert B. Lawler, John Sikorski, Philadelphia, for appellee.

O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, Kauffman and Wilkinson, JJ.

Author: Roberts

[ 496 Pa. Page 18]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is a direct appeal from judgments of sentence imposed by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia upon three citations of criminal contempt entered against appellant during trial.*fn1 The court cited and sentenced appellant summarily as each of the contempts occurred. A sentence of six months' imprisonment was imposed upon each of the citations, and the sentences were ordered to run consecutively.

Appellant challenges both the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain the contempt convictions and the legality of the court's summary procedure. We reject appellant's contentions and, hence, affirm.

Underlying each of the three contempt convictions was appellant's persistent insistence upon the right to dismiss his

[ 496 Pa. Page 19]

    court-appointed attorney. Appellant initiated his demand immediately before closing arguments were scheduled to begin. At that time the court dismissed the jury from the courtroom and conducted a colloquy with appellant. The colloquy revealed appellant's dissatisfaction with his counsel's strategy during trial, particularly the failure to call several witnesses and to ask certain questions. The court, however, denied appellant's request to dismiss his attorney and to obtain new counsel. After the court's ruling, the following ensued, resulting in the first contempt conviction:

"THE DEFENDANT: Well, he ain't going to represent me. He ain't going to argue. You may as well get your contempt book out. I ain't going to allow him to say nothing.

THE COURT: What would you do if he tried to speak in your behalf?

THE DEFENDANT: I ain't going to let him.

THE COURT: What do you mean you wouldn't let him?

THE DEFENDANT: I am going to disrupt this courtroom because I don't want him to defend me no more. I want me another lawyer.

THE COURT: I am denying your request for another lawyer.

THE DEFENDANT: Okay, you can deny it. I told you what I am going to do.

THE COURT: You will be in very serious trouble with this Court, I will tell you now, if you disrupt the courtroom.

THE DEFENDANT: I am in very serious trouble now. I ain't going anywhere. The only thing I want is a fair trial. If I can't get a fair trial, I will get nothing.

THE COURT: You are getting a fair trial.

THE DEFENDANT: I am not getting a fair trial.

THE COURT: Sit down, Mr. Owens.

MR. FREEMAN [defense counsel]: Your Honor, it has been brought to my attention -- perhaps we should simply

[ 496 Pa. Page 20]

    place Mr. Owens under oath. Of course, he has been placed under oath already. I would like to conduct some sort of colloquy as to what his desires are in this case, that is whether he has been advised that he has a right to counsel, to have counsel close in his behalf and he has the right to have counsel call witnesses and to cross-examine them.

THE COURT: Mr. Owens, come up.

THE DEFENDANT: I ain't getting up.

THE COURT: Sheriff. This is not a joke, it is a courtroom.

(Whereupon, the defendant caused a disturbance in ...


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