[¶1] After an eight-day jury trial, Carine Reeves was convicted of intentional or knowing murder, 17-A M.R.S. § 201(1)(A) (2021). On appeal, Reeves argues that the trial court (Washington County, Stewart, J.) erred in denying his motion to dismiss the indictment for failure to comply with the Interstate Compact on Detainers. He further contends that the trial court violated his constitutional rights by holding bench conferences in the hallway and denying his mid-trial motion to represent
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
[¶2] Because Reeves's arguments on appeal focus only on process and procedure, our summary of the facts constituting the offense is succinct. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, the trial record supports the following facts. See State v. Murray, 2021 ME 47, ¶ 2, 259 A.3d 1276. Carine Reeves trafficked drugs from New York to Maine with the aid of the victim and another associate. On July 18, 2017, Reeves, the victim, and the associate drank alcohol at a home in Machias and then left in a rental car. During the drive, Reeves became angry at the victim, struck her, pulled over, and dragged the victim out of the car. He then struck the victim in the face with his handgun, kicked her, and shot her in the head, killing her. He and his associate then made their way back to New York.
II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
[¶3] On July 25, 2017, the State charged Reeves by criminal complaint with intentional or knowing murder, 17-A M.R.S. § 201(1)(A), and the court (Mallonee, J.), issued a warrant for his arrest. A grand jury later indicted Reeves for the same offense.
[¶4] Several days later, Reeves was arrested in New York. There was an outstanding New York warrant for Reeves's arrest stemming from an earlier incident in which he allegedly slashed a woman's face, and, in August 2018, Reeves was found guilty of felonious assault with intent to dismember or disable and was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment in New York. Reeves was also convicted of assaulting a corrections officer in New York based on an incident that occurred while he was awaiting trial and was sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment.
[¶5] In September 2018, the State of Maine lodged a detainer against Reeves, who was still incarcerated in New York. In May 2019, the State requested temporary custody of Reeves pursuant to Article IV of the Interstate Compact on Detainers (the Compact). See 34-A M.R.S. § 9604(1) (2021). The State took temporary custody of Reeves on January 22, 2020, which started the Compact's 120-day deadline to bring Reeves to trial. See id. § 9604(3). The deadline was due to expire on May 21, 2020. See M.R.U. Crim. P. 45.
[¶6] On January 24, 2020, Reeves was arraigned and pleaded not guilty. Trial was initially set to commence on May 18, 2020.
[¶7] Before the trial could begin, however, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the judicial system and daily life for the people of Maine. In light of the public health risks posed by the pandemic, the Supreme Judicial Court issued an emergency order on March 13, 2020, postponing all jury trials, as well as the vast majority of criminal matters, until May 1, 2020. See Emergency Order and Notice from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court Courthouse Safety and Coronavirus (COVID-19) at 1-3 (Mar. 13, 2020); see also Revised Emergency Order and Notice from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court Courthouse Safety and Coronavirus (COVID-19) at 1-2 (Mar. 18, 2020). Subsequent orders postponed the resumption of jury trials until September 7, 2020. See, e.g., PMO-SJC-1 State of
[¶8] On March 30, 2020, the trial court (Stewart, J.) issued an order noting that it was "of the view that it is not possible to assemble jurors or conduct jury trials in May." The court indicated that it was inclined to continue the trial date but gave parties until April 3, 2020, to file objections and show cause why the trial should not be continued.
[¶9] On April 3, 2020, Reeves filed a speedy trial demand as well as a motion objecting to the proposed continuance and anticipatorily moving to dismiss the indictment due to noncompliance with the Compact. See 34-A M.R.S. § 9604(3). Reeves argued that the trial court did not have the authority to order a continuance because good cause had not been shown in open court. See id. To address the issue, the court held a telephonic conference on April 7, 2020, which was apparently not recorded and does not appear in the docket record.
[¶10] On April 15, 2020, the court entered an order continuing the trial. The court reasoned that due to the exigencies of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Maine Supreme Judicial Court's pandemic management orders prohibiting jury trials, good cause existed to continue the trial.
[¶11] On June 8, 2020, Reeves filed a second motion to dismiss, reiterating his arguments regarding the alleged failure to comply with the Compact and noting that the 120-day period to bring him to trial had now expired. See id. After a hearing in July 2020, the court denied the motion to dismiss for the same reasons articulated in its April 2020 continuance.
[¶12] Jury selection for the trial began on September 21, 2020, and the trial began on September 24, 2020. On the first day of trial, Reeves's attorney informed the court that Reeves had requested to be present at all bench conferences. The court addressed this issue during the first bench conference, which was held in the hallway due to concerns about social distancing and COVID-19. The court ruled that although Reeves had the right to review the record, the practical concerns of allowing Reeves to be present at the bench conferences in the hallway outweighed Reeves's right to be physically present. Throughout the course of the trial, over a dozen such bench conferences were held in the hallway.
[¶13] On the fourth day of trial, the State called Reeves's associate to the stand. During cross-examination of the associate, Reeves's lead attorney declined to ask some questions suggested by Reeves. Immediately after the witness was excused, Reeves interrupted the proceedings, asking that the lead attorney be removed and the second-chair attorney be permitted to take over.
[¶14] The next day, the court held a hearing on Reeves's dispute with his lead
[¶15] Applying the standard set forth in State v. LaBare, 637 A.2d 854, 855-56 (Me. 1994), the court found that none of the issues raised by Reeves was sufficient to justify replacing the lead attorney.
[¶16] After the jury found Reeves guilty of intentional or knowing murder, the trial court sentenced him to forty-eight years' imprisonment to be served concurrently with his New York sentence. He timely appeals.
A. The trial court did not err in denying Reeves's motion to dismiss based on the Interstate Compact on Detainers.
[¶17] The Compact is a statutory alternative to extradition adopted by forty-eight states, including Maine and New York. See 34-A M.R.S. §§ 9601-9636 (2021); N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 580.20 (Consol. through 2021 released Chs. 1-833); State v. Beauchene, 541 A.2d 914, 917 (Me. 1988). It is an interstate agreement designed to facilitate the trial of defendants who are imprisoned in one jurisdiction but have charges pending against them in a different jurisdiction. See Beauchene, 541 A.2d at 917; Leslie W. Abramson, The Interstate Agreement on Detainers: Narrowing its Availability and Application, 21 New Eng. J. Crim. & Civ. Confinement 1, 2 n.7 (1995). Because the agreement is a congressionally sanctioned interstate compact made pursuant to the Compact Clause of the United States Constitution, art. I, § 10, cl. 3, the agreement is subject to federal construction. See New York v. Hill, 528 U.S. 110, 111, 120 S.Ct. 659, 145 L.Ed.2d 560 (2000); State v. Caulk, 543 A.2d 1366, 1368 (Me. 1988).
[¶18] Because the Compact is intended to "encourage the expeditious and orderly disposition" of charges pending in one jurisdiction against prisoners who are incarcerated in another jurisdiction, see 34-A M.R.S. § 9601, it sets strict deadlines. Pursuant to Article IV, when the receiving state requests delivery of a defendant, the trial against that defendant must begin within 120 days of the prisoner's arrival in the receiving state. See 34-A M.R.S. § 9604(3). If this deadline is not met, the charges against the defendant must be dismissed with prejudice.
[¶20] We review a trial court's denial of a defendant's motion to dismiss for noncompliance with the Compact for clear error as to factual findings, de novo as to legal conclusions, and for abuse of discretion as to the ultimate decision. See United States v. Kelley, 402 F.3d 39, 41 (1st Cir. 2005).
1. We need not decide whether the trial court's good cause continuance failed to extend the deadline because it was not granted in open court.
[¶21] Reeves argues that the State failed to meet the 120-day deadline because he was not brought to trial until September 24, 2020—months after the expiration of the 120-day window. The extension granted by the trial court in April 2020, he argues, had no effect because it was not granted for good cause shown "in open court" as required by the statute. See 34-A M.R.S. § 9604(3).
[¶22] Although we have not addressed this issue previously, the case law elsewhere makes clear that if a good cause continuance is not granted after a hearing in open court, it has no effect. See, e.g., United States v. Ford, 550 F.2d 732, 743-44 (2d Cir. 1977). A proceeding occurs in "open court" when it is accessible to the public and the parties and occurs on the record; it is not a requirement that the proceeding take place in a courtroom. See Hutchinson v. Cobb, 2014 ME 53, ¶ 6 n.4, 90 A.3d 438.
[¶23] Here, the continuance was granted in writing after an unrecorded telephonic hearing between the State and Reeves's legal counsel. Such an unrecorded proceeding does not qualify as an open-court proceeding as that term is used in 34-A M.R.S. § 9604(3).
[¶24] The trial court ruled that the hearing could not take place in open court due to the pandemic and the Supreme Judicial Court's pandemic management orders. We need not address whether the open-court requirement may be disposed of in exigent circumstances and if so, whether such circumstances excused compliance here, however, because the State has not so argued. Indeed, on appeal, the State has not relied on the good cause provision of the Compact to sustain the trial court's denial of Reeves's motion to dismiss. We therefore assume for purposes of this appeal that the court's grant of a good cause continuance did not extend the 120-day period for a trial.
2. The deadline was tolled because Reeves was unable to stand trial.
[¶25] Instead of relying on the trial court's good cause extension of the deadline, the State argues that the denial of
[¶26] In response, Reeves contends that this tolling provision applies only when a defendant is unable to stand trial for reasons attributable to him and that, in this case, the delay was occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and the pandemic management orders, not him. We have only addressed the tolling provision on two prior occasions. In both instances, we noted that a defendant is "unable to stand trial" during those periods of delay occasioned by the defendant. See State v. Rose, 604 A.2d 24, 25 (Me. 1992) ("For purposes of the statute, a defendant is unable to stand trial during `all those periods of delay occasioned by the defendant.'" (citing United States v. Taylor, 861 F.2d 316, 321 (1st Cir. 1988))); see also State v. Cookson, 657 A.2d 1154, 1156 (Me. 1995).
[¶27] We have never said, however, that delays occasioned by the defendant are the only circumstances in which the tolling provision can apply. The plain language of the tolling provision—as well as logic—support an interpretation that the deadline is tolled when jury trials cannot be held, even if that is not the fault of the defendant. See 34-A M.R.S. § 9606; United States v. Mason, 372 F.Supp. 651, 653 (N.D. Ohio 1973) (interpreting the tolling provision to apply when a defendant is standing trial in another jurisdiction because that is "the only logical result, since if a person is standing trial in one state he cannot be expected to be standing trial in another state simultaneously"); see also State v. Pair, 416 Md. 157, 5 A.3d 1090, 1101 (2010) ("Like the majority of our sister federal and state courts, we construe the `unable to stand trial' language ... to include the time during which the sending jurisdiction is actively prosecuting the inmate on current and pending charges. This construction is consistent with a practical commonsense interpretation...."). Nor is this interpretation barred by precedent
[¶28] At least one other court has concluded that the Compact's tolling provision applied when a defendant could not be brought to trial due to a suspension of trials caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. See Brown v. State, No. CR-20-0223; ___ So.3d ___, ___, 2021 WL 4704727, *3, 2021 Ala. Crim. App. LEXIS 73, at *8 (Ala. Crim. App. Oct. 8, 2021). Other courts have reached a similar conclusion through pandemic orders that flatly provide for tolling or similar suspensions of speedy trial deadlines. See In re Dist. Court Operations During the Covid-19 Outbreak, Misc. No. 2020-0001, 2020 WL 1433768, *2, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56300
[¶29] We, like these courts, conclude that the tolling provision applies when jury trials cannot be held due to circumstances beyond the control of either party.
[¶30] The question still remains, however, whether the tolling provision applies in this case. The State bears the burden of proof. See State v. Brown, 157 N.H. 555, 953 A.2d 1174, 1177 (2008) ("The burden of showing compliance with the [Compact] is upon the State.").
[¶31] Under the pandemic management orders issued by the Supreme Judicial Court in response to the public health dangers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,
[¶32] We reject Reeves's contention, made during oral argument, that the State had not met its burden of showing compliance with the Compact because Reeves had never been asked whether he would waive his right to a jury trial. Reeves took no steps toward waiver of his jury trial right, and the State was not obligated to inquire whether he intended to do so. Similarly, although the burden remained on the State to prove why Reeves was unable to stand trial, Reeves never suggested how a trial could be held prior to September 2020 in light of the pandemic and attendant restrictions.
[¶33] Accordingly, we conclude that Reeves was unable to stand trial during the period when jury trials could not be held under the pandemic management orders: March 13, 2020, to September 7, 2020. Once these days are removed from the period between Reeves's arrival in Maine and the commencement of his trial, fewer than 120 days passed before the trial began. Consequentially, there was no violation
B. Reeves has failed to preserve his argument that holding bench conferences in the hallway violated his public trial rights and has failed to meet the obvious error standard.
[¶34] On appeal, Reeves argues that the trial court's practice of holding bench conferences in the hallway was structural error because it violated his right to a public trial and the right of the public to be present at judicial proceedings. We reject this argument because Reeves has failed to show obvious error for this unpreserved issue.
[¶35] An issue is preserved for appellate review if there is a sufficient basis in the record to alert the trial court and the opposing party to the existence of the issue. See Warren Constr. Grp., LLC v. Reis, 2016 ME 11, ¶ 9, 130 A.3d 969; Verizon New Eng., Inc. v. Pub. Utils. Comm'n, 2005 ME 16, ¶ 15, 866 A.2d 844. If an issue is unpreserved, we will review it only for obvious error. See State v. Clarke, 1999 ME 141, ¶ 29, 738 A.2d 1233.
[¶36] Reeves's argument about the violation of his right to a public trial is unpreserved because it was not raised before the trial court. Although Reeves expressed that he wished to be present at bench conferences and objected to the trial court's ruling that he could not be present for such conferences, he did not argue that he had a right to be present because of his right to a public trial. Instead, Reeves argued solely that he had a personal right to be present at bench conferences because he was the defendant.
[¶37] Under the obvious error standard, Reeves cannot succeed. Obvious error is present if an error is "plain," "affect[ed] substantial rights," and "seriously affect[ed] the fairness and integrity or public reputation of judicial proceedings." State v. Fahnley, 2015 ME 82, ¶ 15, 119 A.3d 727 (quotation marks omitted). An error cannot be "plain" unless "the error is [so] clear under current law that the trial judge and prosecutor were derelict in countenancing it." State v. Dolloff, 2012 ME 130, ¶ 36, 58 A.3d 1032 (alteration in original) (citations and quotation marks omitted).
[¶38] In this case, any error—if there is even error—is not "plain." Although the Sixth Amendment provides a right to a trial open to the public, see Presley v. Georgia, 558 U.S. 209, 212-13, 130 S.Ct. 721, 175 L.Ed.2d 675 (2010), there is no Maine law and scant law elsewhere supporting the proposition that barring access to bench conferences implicates the right to a public trial. Bench conferences are similar to court recesses, during which the court may hear from the parties outside the sight and hearing of the public. See, e.g., Evans v. State, 2020 ME 36, ¶ 4, 228 A.3d 156. Additionally, most other courts that have addressed the issue have concluded that brief bench conferences do not implicate the right to a public trial. See, e.g., State v. Morales, 932 N.W.2d 106, 113-14 (N.D. 2019); State v. Smith, 876 N.W.2d 310, 329-30 (Minn. 2016).
C. The trial court did not err or abuse its discretion when it denied Reeves's mid-trial request to represent himself.
[¶40] Finally, Reeves argues that the trial court violated his right to self-representation under the Maine Constitution and the U.S. Constitution when it denied his mid-trial request to represent himself. The State counters that Reeves's self-representation right was limited because he asserted the right only after previously waiving that right and proceeding to trial with the aid of counsel.
[¶41] Under our primacy approach, we first examine the defendant's claim under the Maine Constitution and interpret the Maine Constitution independently of the federal Constitution. See State v. Fleming, 2020 ME 120, ¶ 17 n.9, 239 A.3d 648. In interpreting the Maine Constitution, however, we may consider federal precedent to the extent that we find that precedent persuasive. See Fleming, 2020 ME 120, ¶ 17 n.9, 239 A.3d 648.
[¶42] We review questions of constitutional interpretation de novo. See Bouchard v. Dep't of Pub. Safety, 2015 ME 50, ¶ 8, 115 A.3d 92.
[¶43] When interpreting the Maine Constitution, "we look primarily to the language used." Allen v. Quinn, 459 A.2d 1098, 1100 (Me. 1983) (quotation marks omitted). Article I, § 6, of the Maine Constitution provides that "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall have a right to be heard by the accused and counsel to the accused, or either, at the election of the accused." This provision unambiguously confers a right to self-representation. See State v. Tomah, 560 A.2d 575, 575 (Me. 1989); State v. Walls, 501 A.2d 803, 805 (Me. 1985). But it does not explicitly address how that right operates when there has been an initial waiver of the right to self-representation followed by a later, mid-trial invocation of that right. Our precedents also provide little guidance on this issue.
[¶44] The analogous federal provision is the Sixth Amendment, which contains an implicit right to self-representation. See U.S. Const. amend. VI; Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 819, 95 S.Ct. 2525, 45 L.Ed.2d 562 (1975). This right, however, is subject to limitations. See Martinez v. Ct. of Appeal of Cal., 4th App. Dist., 528 U.S. 152, 161, 120 S.Ct. 684, 145 L.Ed.2d 597 (2000); see also Indiana v. Edwards, 554 U.S. 164, 177-78, 128 S.Ct. 2379, 171 L.Ed.2d 345 (2008). One such limitation is that a trial judge has broad discretion to deny a request for self-representation if it is asserted in an untimely
[¶45] A number of factors guide the discretion of trial courts in other jurisdictions, although the precise articulation of these factors varies. Some courts consider the reason for the request, the quality of the attorney's representation, and a party's proclivity to substitute attorneys. See Sapienza v. Vincent, 534 F.2d 1007, 1010 (2d Cir. 1976). Others consider the disruption to the proceedings, inconvenience and delay, and potential confusion of the jury. See Fulford v. Maggio, 692 F.2d 354, 362 (5th Cir. 1982), rev'd on other grounds 462 U.S. 111, 118, 103 S.Ct. 2261, 76 L.Ed.2d 794 (1983); United States v. Lawrence, 605 F.2d 1321, 1324 (4th Cir. 1979). Still other courts apply a combination of these factors. See United States v. Mayes, 917 F.2d 457, 462 (10th Cir. 1990); Brown, 676 A.2d at 525.
[¶46] We find these decisions persuasive and conclude that the right to self-representation under Article I, § 6, of the Maine Constitution becomes limited after the commencement of trial. Once a defendant has waived his self-representation right by proceeding to trial with the aid of counsel, the trial court has broad discretion to deny a later request to represent himself. The trial court's denial of such an untimely request is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Accord Noah, 130 F.3d at 498; Fulford, 692 F.2d at 362.
[¶47] Under the facts of this case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to allow Reeves to represent himself. Reeves waived his right to self-representation by proceeding to trial with the aid of counsel and did not assert that right until well after trial began. In denying Reeves's request to represent himself, the trial court made findings supported by the record on six factors: the reasons given for the request, the quality of the representation already provided, the potential disruptive effects on the trial, the timing of the request, the complexity of the proceedings that remained, and whether there had been any prior requests to discharge his counsel. Although this is not an exhaustive list of potentially relevant factors, we conclude that these considerations appropriately reflect the trial court's interest in judicial efficiency and integrity, and in avoiding disruption of the trial.
[¶48] Therefore, Reeves's rights under the Maine Constitution were not violated and, for the same reasons, the
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