Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, June 17, 2011

Graham: Pro Se defendant not entitled to continuance

In U.S. v. Graham, No. 14736 (June 14, 2011), the Court affirmed mortgage fraud convictions of a defendant tried separately from accomplices in U.S. v. Hill.

The Court found no violation of Graham’s rights, when Graham, having repeatedly asked to proceed pro se, requested to be represented by counsel on the first day of trial, and was not granted a continuance to allow counsel to prepare. The Court also rejected Graham’s argument that he was not given time to hire competent counsel, pointing out that he had a year-and-a-half to decide to hire any lawyer he chose, and it was his own fault if he failed to do so. The Court found that Graham intentionally created his situation, and said it would not permit Graham to “game the system.”

The Court also rejected the argument that Graham’s due process rights were violated when he appeared at trial dressed in a prison orange suit. Graham had told the court that he was obtaining street clothing, and then failed to do so – and had no proposal for obtaining street clothing without delaying the trial. Moreover, during opening argument, Graham’s counsel “adeptly managed to use the orange suit for strategic advantage.”

Finally, the Court rejected a challenge to the opinion testimony of a government witness, who testified, as a lay witness, about his personal knowledge of mortgage fraud. The Court held that this testimony was admissible because the government established that this witness “had personal knowledge based on his participation in fraudulent real estate closings.”