Some defendants are so bad that they can have their fundamental right to counsel stripped from them; this is exactly what happened to Curtis Allgier who is serving a life sentence in Utah for killing a police officer. Allgier was serving a 104-month sentence for a weapons charge when he complained of back pain; officer Stephen Anderson was escorting him to a medical facility when Allgier over-powered him, wrestled his gun away, and killed him on June 25th, 2007. He was charged with first-degree murder and was facing the death penalty; however, he was able to negotiate a life sentence, without the possibility of parole. He has since motioned the court to withdraw his guilty plea, but he will have to continue this legal battle without the benefit of counsel. In a ruling by the Utah Supreme Court, Allgier was deemed to have forfeited his right to a lawyer during this stage in the proceedings. The path taken by Allgier, from the initial stages of his case, to the present attempt to withdraw his appeal, has been riddled with attempts to fire his appointed lawyers, often with demeaning and disparaging attacks, at one point, stating his lawyers are “the dumbest ass clowns” he has ever known. He has also leveled levied threats against his lawyers saying things like “he knows how to find people outside of prison”. Although the court agreed that forfeiture of the right to counsel was a “drastic measure”, they noted that this case was not in a trial setting that would normally require greater attorney/client communications. Other courts have been reluctant to find forfeiture as being the correct remedy because the right to counsel is so fundamental.
COMMENT: It is quite common for a defendant to voice disapproval over the way their lawyer is handling their case; this is particularly true in public defender cases where defendants often view them is “public pretenders” who are paid for by the government, and therefore, probably “working with the prosecutor” who is also paid by the government. It is a difficult job. But I know that some of the best lawyers in the nation are public defenders and it is not uncommon for “paid for” (private) lawyers to seek them out for advice. They are mostly unheralded in the media, but they are in the trenches all the time.