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McKenzie v. U.S.

June 12, 1995

LOUIA A. MCKENZIE, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (Hon. Truman A. Morrison III, Motions Judge). (Hon. Zinora M. Mitchell-Rankin, Trial Judge).

Before Terry and Steadman, Associate Judges, and Taylor,* Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Steadman

STEADMAN, Associate Judge: Appellant McKenzie was convicted of armed robbery and related offenses at a bench trial at which a coparticipant in the charged events, Ronald C. Jenkins, was a principal government witness. *fn1 On appeal, McKenzie argues: 1) the trial court made an inadequate inquiry into his pretrial complaint about his appointed counsel, and 2) in its determination of Jenkins's credibility, the trial court improperly took into account a statement made by Jenkins at the time of his arrest, which was referred to at trial but not introduced into evidence in full text. We affirm.

I.

On August 8, 1991, while awaiting trial, appellant sent a letter to the trial court complaining about his attorney, Melvin Dildine. *fn2 Under our case law, such a complaint triggered what is commonly referred to as a "Monroe-Farrell" inquiry. See Monroe v. United States, 389 A.2d 811, 820-21 (D.C.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 1006, 58 L. Ed. 2d 683, 99 S. Ct. 621 (1978) (when a defendant makes a pre-trial challenge to the effectiveness of counsel, the court must at that time conduct an on-the-record inquiry sufficient to determine the truth and scope of the defendant's allegations); Farrell v. United States, 391 A.2d 755, 760-62 (D.C. 1978). Accordingly, at a hearing on October 7, 1991, the following interchange occurred between the motions Judge, the Honorable Truman A. Morrison III, and McKenzie:

THE COURT: Good morning, Mr. McKenzie. You wrote to Judge King, I've taken over Judge King's cases, you wrote to Judge King earlier this summer and wrote him a letter -- asking him if he could give another lawyer. Is that still your request in this case?

DEFENDANT MCKENZIE: Well, since then, things have -- better. So, I'll stick -- see what -- how things turn out.

THE COURT: Well --

DEFENDANT MCKENZIE: I've got to make that decision, right now?

THE COURT: Well, you don't have to make it right now, but you can't wait until we get close to the trial. In other words, we have to have this -- it's a co-defendant case. And, so --

DEFENDANT MCKENZIE: I understand.

THE COURT: If you have any complaints, you have make them in the next week or two. -- but for now you want to keep Mr. Dildine? Okay.

No further complaints of any kind were made by McKenzie to the court about his counsel *fn3 until, following Mr. Dildine's death, successor counsel filed a post-verdict motion for a new trial, *fn4 alleging an inadequate Monroe-Farrell inquiry into his pretrial claim of dissatisfaction with counsel and also alleging ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674, 104 S. Ct. 2052 (1984). After a two-day hearing, the Honorable Zinora Mitchell-Rankin, who had also been the Judge at the bench trial, denied the motion with respect to both assertions. *fn5

We agree that given the response of McKenzie at the pretrial hearing and the absence of any subsequent complaint, no further Monroe-Farrell inquiry was required at that hearing or subsequently. Judge Morrison, who engaged in first-hand inquiry with McKenzie, could fairly construe the exchange as an indication that McKenzie was at that point satisfied with his counsel. *fn6 When a defendant makes complaints that might trigger a full Monroe-Farrell inquiry, but later tells the court that he is now satisfied with his counsel or no longer desires new counsel, the court need not continue further into the matter. See Robinson v. United States, 565 A.2d 964, 969 (D.C. 1989) (holding that court did not err in failing to conduct Monroe-Farrell inquiry, where appellant had made many requests for new attorney but when court asked appellant to state the basis for desire for a new attorney, "appellant himself concluded that he was ready and willing to go forward with his present attorney"); Gordon v. United States, 582 A.2d 944, 946 (D.C. 1990) (judge did not err in failing to ask questions of defense counsel when, after Judge addressed appellant's problems and questions, appellant said she wanted to go to trial and would keep her defense attorney; ...


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