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Case Synopsis

In April 2001, Hymon stole a purse from a woman in the lobby of an auto repair shop. He ran, and two of the shop’s mechanics pursued him. They caught up to him when he fell on the curb, but he stood and swung a four- to six-inch long pocketknife. They backed away, allowing him to escape, but the police apprehended him shortly thereafter. After Hymon requested to represent himself, the district court conducted a Faretta canvass,2 and concluded that Hymon was competent to waive his right to counsel. Hymon was uncooperative and unwilling to communicate with the prosecutor, so the district court revoked Hymon’s right to represent himself and appointed counsel. At a calendar call in November 2001, Hymon claimed he was being represented against his will and denied his right to selfrepresentation. The district court conducted another Faretta canvass, during which Hymon again gave appropriate responses. However, the district court was concerned with Hymon’s understanding of his available defenses – one of his main reasons for wanting to represent himself was that his counsel would not present the defense he wanted (denial of due process). The district court allowed Hymon to represent himself, but also appointed standby counsel. During the trial, Hymon was ordered to wear a stun belt because of a letter he had sent. The letter requested that the Civil Rights Volunteers make the district court judge recuse himself, and also stated, “If I have to, I will murder him.” In trial, Hymon focused on the violation of his rights, and, as an example, opened his clothes to reveal the stun belt. Following a guilty verdict, the State presented certified copies of Hymon’s prior convictions, and the district court found Hymon to be a habitual criminal. However, the State never requested to have the judgments of conviction admitted, and the district court never stated that they were admitted. On appeal, Hymon asserted that the district court: (1) should have promptly disclosed that it had received a copy of the letter and conducted a hearing before requiring him to wear a stun belt, (2) abused its discretion by allowing Hymon to represent himself after performing an inadequate Faretta canvass, and (3) erred by sentencing Hymon as a habitual criminal when the judgments of conviction were not admitted into evidence. The Nevada Supreme Court held that while the district court should have disclosed its receipt of the letter and held a hearing on the use of the stun belt, such error was harmless as there existed an essential state interest in compelling Hymon to wear a stun belt. The court also held that the district court’s Faretta canvass was sufficient; that Hymon was competent to waive his right to counsel, and that such waiver was knowing, voluntary and intelligent. Finally, the court held that it was not error to sentence Hymon as a habitual criminal because it was clear that the prior convictions were introduced as evidence, argued by the parties, and considered by the court.