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Date: 01-13-2018

Case Style:

State of Wisconsin v. Michael L. Washington

Wisconsin Supreme Court

Case Number: 2016AP238-CR

Judge: Ann Walsh Bradley

Court: Wisconsin Supreme Court

Plaintiff's Attorney: Sarah L. Burgundy
assistant attorney general

Brad D. Schimel
attorney general

Defendant's Attorney: Andrew R. Hinkel
assistant state public defender.

Description: The petitioner, Michael L. Washington ("Washington"), seeks review of a published court of
appeals decision affirming his judgment of conviction and the
circuit court's order denying his postconviction motion.1 He
asserts that the court of appeals erred in determining that, by his conduct, he waived his statutory right to be present at trial.

Washington specifically contends that his right to be present at trial pursuant to Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04(1)(b) (2013-
was violated.2 He argues that the court erred in determining
that his conduct waived his statutory right to be present given
that ァ 971.04(3) permits waiver only after the trial has begun.3
カ3 We conclude that Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04(3) does not apply
here. It does not place any limitation on a defendant's ability
to waive the right to be present at any portion of trial.
カ4 We further determine that Washington, by his conduct,
waived his Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04(1) right to be present at trial.
Although we reach this determination under the facts presented,
we emphasize that the best practice is an on-the-record waiver
colloquy.
カ5 Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the court of
appeals.
I
カ6 The State charged Washington with burglary and
obstructing an officer. He was apprehended near the apartment
2 Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04(1)(b) provides, in relevant part: "Except as provided in subs. (2) and (3), the defendant shall be present: . . . [a]t trial . . . ."

All subsequent references to the Wisconsin Statutes are to the 2013-14 version unless otherwise indicated.

3 See infra, カカ22 n.7, 29.
No. 2016AP238-CR

3

where the burglary occurred and was uncooperative with law
enforcement.
カ7 Washington's first appointed attorney was allowed to
withdraw from the representation due to a breakdown in the
attorney-client relationship. Less than a month later,
Washington's second appointed attorney filed a motion to
withdraw as counsel, citing an attorney-client relationship that
was "irreparably broken" and a "fundamental difference of
opinion regarding what defenses are appropriate and viable in
this case." The circuit court granted the motion to withdraw
and a third attorney was appointed to represent Washington.
カ8 Washington's third appointed attorney also moved to
withdraw. The circuit court initially granted the motion, but
then rescinded its ruling to give effect to Washington's
previously filed speedy trial demand.
カ9 On the eve of jury selection, Washington's third
appointed attorney again moved to withdraw, citing a broken
attorney-client relationship as evidenced by Washington's
repeated filing of pro se motions without consulting counsel.
The circuit court denied the motion to withdraw, explaining its
belief "that this is in a sense an act of manipulation on the
part of Mr. Washington[.]"
カ10 The case proceeded to jury selection the following day
and a jury was chosen. The next morning, before the jury was
sworn, Washington's counsel informed the court that she had
learned of some new, possibly exculpatory information.
Washington agreed to withdraw his speedy trial demand and the
No. 2016AP238-CR

4

circuit court dismissed the jury. It rescheduled the trial for
a date approximately three months later.
カ11 Washington's counsel further advised the court that
her relationship with Washington had improved and the two "have
been working very well together[.]" She therefore asked "the
[c]ourt to not consider [her] motions to withdraw." The circuit
court indicated that it was "pleased to hear that the
relationship has improved, and that you are now working together
very well."
カ12 However, Washington's relationship with his counsel
quickly soured again. At the next status hearing, Washington's
counsel submitted yet another motion to withdraw. The circuit
court expressed concern that "we have a pattern developing where
no matter who is appointed to represent you[,] if they don't
tell you what you want to hear you're going to not get along
with them and you're going to ask them to withdraw. And I can
see this going on indefinitely." Consequently, the circuit
court denied the motion to withdraw.
カ13 On the day the second scheduled trial was to commence,
Washington's counsel informed the circuit court that Washington
was again being uncooperative. She explained that "[h]e stated
that [she] was not his attorney." The circuit court then turned
to address Washington and the following exchange ensued:
THE COURT: Well, sir, we've been down this road so many times over and over and over.
DEFENDANT: And we can keep going over and over it again.
No. 2016AP238-CR

5

THE COURT: No, we're 覧
DEFENDANT: She's not representing me, man.
THE COURT: Sir, the matter is set for trial.
DEFENDANT: I don't know what it's set for, she ain't representing me.
THE COURT: All right, Mr. Washington?
DEFENDANT: I'm telling you she's not representing me, man.
THE COURT: Sir, will you let me speak. The matter is scheduled for a jury trial this afternoon. And it is going to be going forward as a jury trial. We have addressed this issue of who is your 覧
DEFENDANT: I said she's not representing me and we ain't going no trial now, I mean that.
THE COURT: Sir, we will go forward with the trial and if necessary you may have to be removed from the courtroom.
DEFENDANT: I'm gone. She's not representing me.
カ14 The circuit court then stated:
[T]he record may reflect that Mr. Washington semi was removed and semi left on his own after the last outburst. So we are out of his presence right now. And the real issue that has come up here is one of manipulation. I think Mr. Washington has been trying to manipulate this case in my opinion for a very long period of time.
In the words of the circuit court, Washington's demeanor was
"physically aggressive and threatening."
カ15 Washington was taken back to the jail and refused to
return to the courtroom. Outside of Washington's presence, the
circuit court discussed with both counsel how it was going to
proceed. Citing State v. Divanovic, 200 Wis. 2d 210, 546
No. 2016AP238-CR

6

N.W.2d 501 (Ct. App. 1996), the circuit court ultimately
determined that the trial should proceed because the defendant
had waived his right to be present.4 The circuit court suggested
that the "proper procedure" indicated that Washington should be
"escorted involuntarily to court for trial" and that "[i]f he is
uncooperative he should be warned on the record by the court
that if his lack of cooperation continues he will be removed
from the courtroom."
カ16 However, the circuit court did not follow this course
of action. Instead, it determined that "attempting to
involuntarily bring Mr. Washington back into court would unduly
jeopardize the safety of officers and perhaps even Mr.
Washington since his aggressiveness and his attitude suggest
that he may be physically resistant to being brought back in and
that it could result in an altercation." The circuit court
further observed the prejudice that could result to Washington
if he were to be brought in against his will in front of the
jury.
カ17 Determining that Washington waived his constitutional
right to be present, the circuit court concluded that the trial 4 In State v. Divanovic, 200 Wis. 2d 210, 214, 546 N.W.2d 501 (Ct. App. 1996), the defendant refused to participate in proceedings. The record revealed repeated contacts by the defendant's counsel, various court representatives, and the judge urging the defendant to attend the proceedings and warning him that the trial would proceed without him if he refused to attend. Id. at 221. The court of appeals determined that the defendant had waived his constitutional right to be present. Id. at 222.
No. 2016AP238-CR

7

would go forward in Washington's absence. It observed that
"[Washington's] conduct has been so disruptive that there's no
way to proceed with the trial with him here." The circuit court
emphasized the manipulative history of Washington's conduct and
his unwillingness to be present and cooperate or communicate
with his attorney.5 It further explained that Washington would
have the opportunity to consult with counsel and return to the
courtroom if he could maintain the proper decorum:
Certainly at any point in time that Mr. Washington is willing to cooperate and behave he has the opportunity to return to this courtroom. Counsel will continue to represent him. Counsel will have reasonable opportunities to confer with him during the course of trial. And he should be periodically advised and we'll figure out how frequently this will be done and in what way it will be done of his right to return to the courtroom if he wishes to do that.
5 In making its determination, the circuit court stated:
I think that given the history first of all we have a series of positions taken by Mr. Washington and various instances of conduct on his behalf that again I don't want to wear out the word, but I can't characterize it as being anything other than manipulative in attempting to prevent this matter from going forward now to the point of refusing to come to court and to participate. And given that history and given his conduct today without there being any real showing that except for his attitude there's been any interference with the attorney/client relationship . . . , but that is due solely to the conduct of Mr. Washington it appears, and his unwillingness to even communicate with much less cooperate with counsel. That he has in fact waived his constitutional rights to be present.
No. 2016AP238-CR

8

The case proceeded to jury selection in Washington's absence,
and the selected jurors returned the next day to be sworn and
begin the trial.
カ18 As will be more fully detailed below, Washington was
offered the opportunity to return to the courtroom five times.
See infra, カカ41-50. Court personnel or counsel communicated
with him twice prior to jury selection and three times during
the single-day trial覧directly prior to the beginning of trial,
during a recess in testimony, and prior to the verdict being
read. Each time Washington refused to participate.
カ19 Washington's trial, not including jury selection,
lasted five to six hours.6 The State presented three witnesses
and Washington did not present any.
カ20 The jury convicted Washington of both charges.
Approximately three months after trial, with Washington present,
the circuit court sentenced him to ten years' imprisonment,
bifurcated as five years of initial confinement followed by five
years of extended supervision.
カ21 Washington filed a motion for postconviction relief.
He did not challenge the circuit court's determination that he
had knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his
6 There is a discrepancy in the record regarding the time the jury began its deliberations. According to the court minutes, the jury was excused for deliberations at 1:55 p.m., while the transcript of the trial indicates it was at 2:55 p.m. In either event, Washington's trial occupied only a short period of time.
No. 2016AP238-CR

9

constitutional right to be present at trial. Rather, he
premised his motion on Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04(3), contending that
the trial should not have taken place in his absence unless he
was "present at the beginning of trial."7 The circuit court
denied the motion.
カ22 On appeal, Washington renewed this argument. The
court of appeals affirmed the circuit court, concluding that
"Washington waived his statutory right to be present at the
trial and the court held that right open to Washington
throughout the trial proceedings." State v. Washington, 2017 WI
App 6, カ21, 373 Wis. 2d 214, 890 N.W.2d 592.
II
カ23 This case requires the court to interpret and apply
Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04(1) and (3). Statutory interpretation and
application present questions of law that this court reviews
independently of the determinations rendered by the circuit
court and court of appeals. State v. Soto, 2012 WI 93, カ14, 343
Wis. 2d 43, 817 N.W.2d 848.
7 Wisconsin Stat. ァ 971.04(3) provides in relevant part:
If the defendant is present at the beginning of the trial and thereafter, during the progress of the trial or before the verdict of the jury has been returned into court, voluntarily absents himself or herself from the presence of the court without leave of the court, the trial or return of verdict of the jury in the case shall not thereby be postponed or delayed, but the trial or submission of said case to the jury for verdict and the return of verdict thereon, if required, shall proceed in all respects as though the defendant were present in court at all times.
No. 2016AP238-CR

10

カ24 Similarly, whether a defendant's statements and
actions in a criminal proceeding constitute a waiver of the
statutory right to be present is a question of law. Id. (citing
State v. Ward, 2009 WI 60, カ17, 318 Wis. 2d 301, 767
N.W.2d 236). Again, we review this question independently of
the determinations rendered by the circuit court and court of
appeals. Id.
III
カ25 To provide context to the questions before us, we
examine first the bases of the defendant's right to be present
at trial.
カ26 A defendant has both a constitutional and a statutory
right to be present at trial and at certain pre-trial
proceedings. U.S. Const. amends. VI, XIV; Wis. Const. art. 1,
ァ 7; Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04; see also State v. Alexander, 2013 WI
70, カ22, 349 Wis. 2d 327, 833 N.W.2d 126 (citing Leroux v.
State, 58 Wis. 2d 671, 689, 207 N.W.2d 589 (1973)).
カ27 The constitutional right to be present arises from the
confrontation clause and the Fourteenth Amendment of the United
States Constitution and grants the right to be present in the
No. 2016AP238-CR

11

courtroom at every stage of trial.8 State v. Haynes, 118
Wis. 2d 21, 25, 345 N.W.2d 892 (Ct. App. 1984) (citation
omitted). However, a defendant may waive this right by conduct
or by express waiver. Divanovic, 200 Wis. 2d at 220; see also
Illinois v. Allen, 397 U.S. 337, 345-46 (1970). "[W]hen a
defendant is voluntarily absent from the trial proceedings, a
defendant's failure to assert the right to be present can
constitute an adequate waiver and an express waiver on the
record is not essential." Divanovic, 200 Wis. 2d at 220.
カ28 In addition to the constitutional right to be present,
Wisconsin law provides a statutory right to be present at
certain proceedings. Pursuant to Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04(1), a
defendant has the right to be present at arraignment, trial,
voir dire, and the return of the verdict, among other
proceedings.9
A
カ29 Washington does not dispute that he waived his
constitutional right to be present. Rather, he focuses on one 8 The confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him[.]" U.S. Const. amend. VI. "[T]he Fourteenth Amendment makes the guarantees of this clause obligatory upon the States." Illinois v. Allen, 397 U.S. 337, 338 (1970) (citing Pointer v. Texas, 380 U.S. 400 (1965)). A similar provision is present in the Wisconsin Constitution: "In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to meet the witnesses face to face." Wis. Const. art. 1, ァ 7.
9 See infra, カ38.
No. 2016AP238-CR

12

exception to the general rule of presence that is enumerated by
Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04(3). It provides in relevant part:
If the defendant is present at the beginning of the trial and thereafter, during the progress of the trial or before the verdict of the jury has been returned into court, voluntarily absents himself or herself from the presence of the court without leave of the court, the trial or return of verdict of the jury in the case shall not thereby be postponed or delayed, but the trial or submission of said case to the jury for verdict and the return of verdict thereon, if required, shall proceed in all respects as though the defendant were present in court at all times.
カ30 We begin by examining the text of the statute.
Previously, we have determined that the phrase "beginning of the
trial" in the context of Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04(3) occurs when the
selection of the jury has been completed and the jury has been
sworn, in other words, when jeopardy attaches.10 State v.
Miller, 197 Wis. 2d 518, 521-22, 541 N.W.2d 153 (Ct. App. 1995);
see also State v. Koopmans, 210 Wis. 2d 670, カ13, 563 N.W.2d 528
(1997).
カ31 The statute discusses a defendant voluntarily
absenting him or herself without any mention of a requirement
10 We observe that this definition of the "beginning of trial" differs from that utilized in federal court. "Initially present at trial" in the context of Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 43(c) refers to the day that jury selection begins. U.S. v. Benabe, 654 F.3d 753, 771-72 (7th Cir. 2011). The concurrence seeks to overrule State v. Miller, 197 Wis. 2d 518, 541 N.W.2d 153 (Ct. App. 1995), and to instead interpret the "beginning of trial" for purposes of Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04(3) consistently with the federal rule. No party has asked us to do this. Further, we observe that the language of Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04(3) differs from that of Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 43(c).
No. 2016AP238-CR

13

that the defendant's action be taken knowingly. It sets forth a
way that a defendant can forfeit the right to be present覧by
leaving after the jury has been sworn.11 The text of the statute
does not limit a defendant's ability to waive the right to be
present and does not purport to set forth the exclusive manner
in which a defendant can relinquish the right to be present.
カ32 Washington asserts that he was unlawfully tried in
absentia because he was not present when the jury was sworn in
violation of Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04(3). His argument misses the
mark. Wisconsin Stat. ァ 971.04(3) was created to attend to the
situation in which a defendant absconds, not where an
obstreperous defendant seeks to delay and disrupt proceedings
through his own actions.
カ33 Additionally, the Judicial Council comments to Wis.
Stat. ァ 971.04(3) state that "Sub. (3) is designed to prevent a
defendant from stopping a trial which has commenced by absenting
himself." ァ 63 note, ch. 255, Laws of 1969; see State ex rel.
Kalal v. Cir. Ct. for Dane Cty., 2004 WI 58, カ51, 271
Wis. 2d 633, 681 N.W.2d 110 ("legislative history is sometimes 11 Forfeiture is the "failure to make the timely assertion of a right." State v. Ndina, 2009 WI 21, カ29, 315 Wis. 2d 653, 761 N.W.2d 612. Waiver, on the other hand, occurs when there is an affirmative "intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right or privilege." State v. Haynes, 118 Wis. 2d 21, 25, 345 N.W.2d 892 (Ct. App. 1984) (citation omitted). "In contrast to forfeiture, waiver typically applies to those rights so important to the administration of a fair trial that mere inaction on the part of a litigant is not sufficient to demonstrate that the party intended to forgo the right." Soto, 343 Wis. 2d 43, カ37 (citing Ndina, 315 Wis. 2d 653, カ31).
No. 2016AP238-CR

14

consulted to confirm or verify a plain-meaning interpretation").
The statute was aimed at a defendant the court cannot locate.
It is not aimed at a defendant who is easily located in the jail
but steadfastly refuses to participate in any proceedings. A
contrary interpretation would allow a defendant to be as
disorderly as they pleased, and as long as the unruly conduct
took place prior to the jury being sworn, there could be no
consequence.
カ34 Washington seeks support for his contention that the
circuit court violated his statutory right to be present in
State v. Dwyer, 181 Wis. 2d 826, 512 N.W.2d 233 (Ct. App. 1994)
and Koopmans, 210 Wis. 2d 670. In Dwyer, the defendant did not
return to court after a recess while jury selection was ongoing.
181 Wis. 2d at 832. Dwyer was tried and convicted in absentia.
Id. The court of appeals granted Dwyer a new trial, concluding
that, because Dwyer was not present at the beginning of the
trial, the circuit court violated Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04(3). Id.
at 836-37.
カ35 In Koopmans, the defendant did not appear for two
separate sentencing hearings, and there was evidence she had
absconded to Belize. Koopmans, 210 Wis. 2d 670, カ4. The
circuit court concluded that Koopmans was voluntarily absent and
sentenced her in absentia. Id. This court determined that
although the circuit court may have "proceeded carefully and
reasonably in attempting to resolve the situation[,]" Wis. Stat.
ァ 971.04(1) is mandatory and requires a defendant's presence at
sentencing. Id., カ15.
No. 2016AP238-CR

15

カ36 Washington argues that Dwyer and Koopmans cut in his
favor because like Washington, the defendants in both cases
clearly chose not to be in court. However, Dwyer and Koopmans
are forfeiture, not waiver cases. Although couched in terms of
waiver,12 both of these cases present situations where the
defendant did not make, on the record, any affirmative
intentional relinquishment of the right to be present. Unlike
Washington, who conveyed personal, on-the-record comments, the
defendants in both Dwyer and Koopmans simply absconded. Rather
than decline repeated offers to participate in proceedings, they
merely practiced avoidance, which is exactly the situation Wis.
Stat. ァ 971.04(3) addresses. See supra, カカ32-35.
B
カ37 Having determined that Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04(3) does not
apply, we turn now to examine whether Washington waived his
ァ 971.04(1) right to be present.
カ38 Wisconsin Stat. ァ 971.04(1) provides a defendant with
the right to be present at certain proceedings. It states:
(1) Except as provided in subs. (2) and (3), the defendant shall be present:
(a) At the arraignment;
(b) At trial;
12 This court has acknowledged that "cases sometimes use the words 'forfeiture' and 'waiver' interchangeably." State v. Ndina, 2009 WI 21, カ29, 315 Wis. 2d 653, 761 N.W.2d 612. However, "the two words embody very different legal concepts." Id.
No. 2016AP238-CR

16

(c) During voir dire of the trial jury;
(d) At any evidentiary hearing;
(e) At any view by the jury;
(f) When the jury returns its verdict;
(g) At the pronouncement of judgment and the imposition of sentence;
(h) At any other proceeding when ordered by the court.
カ39 Similar to the constitutional right to be present, a
defendant may waive his or her statutory right to be present at
certain proceedings enumerated in Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04(1). See
Soto, 343 Wis. 2d 43, カ40. Waiver can be either express or by
conduct. See id., カ45.
カ40 "Although a formal colloquy is often employed to show
waiver, it is not the only way in which waiver may be shown."
Id.,; see also, State v. Denson, 2011 WI 70, カ66, 335
Wis. 2d 681, 799 N.W.2d 831. Determining whether there is
waiver by conduct presents a fact intensive inquiry.
カ41 Turning to the facts of this case, the record
demonstrates that Washington, by his conduct, waived his Wis.
Stat. ァ 971.04(1) right to be present at trial. Washington
repeatedly refused to participate in proceedings after being
offered the opportunity numerous times.
カ42 After Washington "semi was removed and semi left on
his own[,]" the circuit court indicated that it would
periodically, over the course of the proceedings, "make
inquiries as to whether he wishes to come back to the
No. 2016AP238-CR

17

courtroom[.]" He would also be given "reasonable opportunities"
to confer with counsel during the course of trial. The circuit
court followed through with this course of action.
カ43 Following Washington's last outburst and before jury
selection, Washington was twice asked if he wanted to
participate. First, the bailiff called the jail. The bailiff
reported that "the officer upstairs asked Mr. Washington if he
would like to come down and participate in his jury trial. Mr.
Washington said no. No further comment."
カ44 Subsequently, Washington's counsel was "escorted up to
the jail to be given the opportunity to confer with Mr.
Washington if he is willing to come out of his cell[.]" After
conferring with Washington, counsel reported back that "[h]e
informed me he is not participating. I did explain to him the
[c]ourt's ruling. He said he is not coming down to
participate."
カ45 In response to Washington's reaffirmation of his
refusal to participate, the circuit court crafted a jury
instruction, indicating that Washington was not present, he had
waived his constitutional right to be present, and "his absence
must not influence [the jury's] verdict in any manner
whatsoever." The circuit court read this instruction to the
jury prior to voir dire, and reiterated during questioning of
jurors that Washington's absence should have no effect on the
jury's deliberations.
カ46 The next morning, the circuit court initiated
proceedings by stating: "For the record I was advised earlier
No. 2016AP238-CR

18

this morning that when Mr. Washington was contacted by a
corrections officer or deputy to inquire as to whether he would
be coming down and willing to come down for trial today he
indicated that he would not." Again, the circuit court gave
Washington's counsel "the opportunity to go up to the jail to
attempt to have contact with Mr. Washington and to discuss the
matter with him." Washington's counsel reported that she "spoke
with him and he informed [her] that he does not want to come
down."
カ47 During a recess in testimony, counsel yet again met
with Washington, and Washington again refused to participate.
Counsel reported: "I did speak with Mr. Washington. He does
not want to come down. He does not want to participate in the
trial. I explained to him that we are approaching the point
where he would have a constitutional right to testify on his own
behalf. He stated he did not want to do that."
カ48 The circuit court responded: "All right, once again
contact has been made with Mr. Washington. He's been given the
opportunity to consult with his attorney and . . . been given
the opportunity to appear here in court if he wishes to. Based
upon his continuing attitude and conduct the [c]ourt finds that
he continues to waive his constitutional right to be present."
カ49 After the close of testimony, the circuit court again
instructed the jury that Washington's waiver of the right to be
present "must not be considered by you in any way and it must
not influence your verdict in any manner. You are not to
No. 2016AP238-CR

19

speculate about or draw any inferences from Mr. Washington's
waiver of his right to be present."13
カ50 Washington was given one more opportunity to be
present覧for the reading of the verdict. The circuit court
explained that "[p]rior to bringing the jury into the courtroom
we have had a court officer contact jail personnel to inquire of
Mr. Washington as to whether he would now come out of his cell
and come down for purposes of receiving the verdict."
Washington again refused to participate, indicating "very
emphatically to personnel which was heard over the telephone by
someone from this courtroom that he is not, does not wish to
come down[.]".
カ51 Given this sequence of events and the repeated
opportunities the circuit court afforded to Washington to
participate in the trial, we conclude that Washington knowingly
and voluntarily waived his statutory right to be present at
trial. He knew he had the right to be present覧counsel apprised
him of that right on several occasions. Further, his
relinquishment of the right was voluntary覧he refused numerous
invitations to participate over the course of the relatively
short single day of trial. These circumstances demonstrate that
Washington waived, rather than forfeited, the right to be
present. 13 Like the court of appeals, we commend the circuit court for taking numerous steps to ensure that the jury was not prejudiced by Washington's absence. See State v. Washington, 2017 WI App 6, カ19, 373 Wis. 2d 214, 890 N.W.2d 592.
No. 2016AP238-CR

20

IV
カ52 Although we do not find Washington's arguments
persuasive, we once again emphasize that the best practice is to
engage the defendant in a colloquy. A formal colloquy is by far
the best practice to ensure that a defendant is knowingly,
intelligently, and voluntarily waiving a right. State v.
Klessig, 211 Wis. 2d 194, 206, 564 N.W.2d 716 (1997)
(determining that a colloquy "is the clearest and most efficient
means of insuring that the defendant has validly waived his
right to the assistance of counsel, and of preserving and
documenting that valid waiver for purposes of appeal and
postconviction motions").
カ53 "[A] properly conducted colloquy serves the dual
purposes of ensuring that a defendant is not deprived of his
constitutional rights and of efficiently guarding our scarce
judicial resources." Id. Indeed, a colloquy is required in
some cases. See State v. Anderson, 2002 WI 7, カ24, 249
Wis. 2d 586, 638 N.W.2d 301 (explaining that a colloquy is
required to prove a valid waiver of the right to a jury trial);
Klessig, 211 Wis. 2d at 206 (mandating the use of a colloquy in
every case where a defendant seeks to waive the right to counsel
and proceed pro se).
カ54 Consequently, in response to questions at oral
argument regarding whether Washington should have been returned
to the courtroom for a colloquy or if a court reporter should
have been dispatched to his jail cell to record a colloquy, the
No. 2016AP238-CR

21

State recognized that a colloquy is always preferable and the
best practice.
カ55 The State further acknowledged the obvious efficiency
and savings of court resources覧had the circuit court engaged in
such a colloquy, this case likely would not be before this
court.14 At oral argument, in response to a question from this
court, the State's counsel asserted, with regard to best
practices:
That's just a matter of . . . when I'm standing before this court and you're asking me where on the record is there a knowing, intelligent waiver, I wouldn't be here if there was, or none of us would be here, if there was . . . .
カ56 Under the circumstances of this case, we cannot fault
the circuit court for failing to engage in a personal colloquy.
Here, the circuit court's actions were sufficient and a colloquy
was not required.
カ57 The circuit court, on the record, described
Washington's manipulative history and disruptive behaviors. It
explained that his demeanor was "physically aggressive and
threatening." The court surmised that returning Washington to
court for a colloquy may have placed court personnel, as well as
Washington himself, in danger. See State v. Vaughn, 2012 WI App
14 We observed in State v. Denson, as we do here, that an on-the-record colloquy is the "better practice." 2011 WI 70, カ67, 335 Wis. 2d 681, 799 N.W.2d 831. Similarly, we recognized in Denson that "had the circuit court engaged Denson in an onthe-record colloquy regarding his right not to testify, this case likely would not be before us." Id.
No. 2016AP238-CR

22

129, カ26, 344 Wis. 2d 764, 823 N.W.2d 543 ("we will not impose
on the circuit courts a rule that not only would be pyrrhic in
the sense that if an obstreperous defendant is dragged into
court and still does not cooperate, dragging that defendant into
court accomplishes nothing, but would also endanger everyone
including the defendant").

Outcome: In conclusion, we determine that Wis. Stat. ァ 971.04(3) does not apply here because it does not place any limitation on a defendant's ability to waive the right to be present at any portion of trial. We further determine that
Washington, by his conduct, waived his ァ 971.04(1) right to be
present at trial.

Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the court of appeals.

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:

Comments:



 
 
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