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North Carolina v. Wilburn

Filed: May 4, 1982.


Appeal by defendant from Bailey, Judge. Judgment entered 11 March 1981 in Superior Court, Durham County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 2 March 1982.

Clark, Judge. Judges Arnold and Webb concur.


On 9 March 1981, one day prior to the trial, defendant's attorney filed a motion for continuance until 11 May 1981. He also filed a notice informing the court that he represented defendant for the limited purpose of moving for the continuance. The court denied the motion and ordered defendant to proceed to trial.

Defendant has assigned error to the court's denial of this motion for continuance.

The record on appeal reveals that on 4 August 1980 defendant was indicted for attempting to obtain property by false pretenses. He was indicted on the conspiracy charge approximately three months later. He was formally arraigned on 25 September 1980. Defendant thereafter moved for a continuance of the trial from 1 December 1980 until 12 January 1981. The court granted his motion noting that defendant's attorney, Linwood Peoples, had suffered a stroke. Apparently defendant was granted a second continuance on 15 January 1981 to run until 9 February 1981. The trial court dismissed Peoples as defendant's attorney on 10 February 1981. On the same date defendant waived in writing his right to counsel. Judge Maurice Braswell granted defendant another continuance running from 9 February 1981 to 5 March 1981 and told defendant to obtain an attorney. When he appeared before Judge Braswell on 5 March 1981, defendant still was without legal representation. Judge Braswell then set the trial date for 10 March 1981. On 9 March 1981 defendant retained Sydenham B. Alexander, Jr., as his attorney. Mr. Alexander immediately filed the notice of limited representation and motion for continuance. In his motion he requested an extension of sixty days for the purpose of preparing for trial.

Defendant argues that the court's denial of this motion for continuance violated his constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel. We disagree. This Court has emphasized that a signed waiver of right to have assigned counsel was "'good and sufficient until the proceeding finally terminated, unless the defendant himself makes known to the court that he desires to withdraw the waiver and have counsel assigned to him.'" State v. Smith, 27 N.C. App. 379, 380-81, 219 S.E.2d 277, 279 (1975), quoting State v. Watson, 21 N.C. App. 374, 379, 204 S.E.2d 537, 540 (1974). In Smith, supra, the defendant waived his right to counsel on 10 June 1974. On 22 July 1974, the date of his trial, defendant moved to withdraw the waiver and have counsel assigned. We noted:

If this tactic is employed successfully, defendants will be permitted to control the course of litigation and sidetrack the trial. At this stage of the proceeding, the burden is on the

defendant not only to move for withdrawal of the waiver, but also to show good cause for the delay. Upon his failure to do so, the signed waiver of counsel remains valid and effective during trial.

Id. at 381, 219 S.E.2d at 279. In the case sub judice, there is no evidence that defendant ever moved to withdraw his waiver of assigned counsel. At the hearing on this motion, defendant informed the court that he wanted a lawyer to represent him. He never indicated, however, that he was indigent and desired appointment of counsel. It is obvious from the record that defendant was merely seeking a continuance in order for his recently retained counsel to prepare for trial. Defendant had been granted two continuances for the purpose of obtaining counsel after he signed the written waiver on 10 February 1981. The court gave defendant an adequate opportunity for this purpose, and he should not be permitted to delay litigation any longer. This assignment of error is overruled.

Defendant has also assigned error to the admission of evidence "of other alleged criminal offenses committed by him at other times and other places not charged in the indictments." Defendant contends that this evidence was irrelevant and deprived him of his constitutional right to due process of law. Over defendant's objection, the trial court allowed Donald Thomas to testify that he owned a convenience store in Shelby; that defendant approached him over a year before the trial about buying goods below cost and that he later entered into a deal with defendant and Caudle to buy 950 cases of cigarettes for $25,000. Thomas emphasized that the cases normally sold for $135,000. Defendant and Caudle told Thomas to pick the cigarettes up at the Thomas and Howard warehouse in Butner. After Thomas arrived at the warehouse, he was told to drive to a nearby restaurant and wait before loading his truck. While Thomas was at the restaurant a man drove up and asked to count the $25,000. Thomas gave him the money and never received any of the cigarettes.

Claude Puckett testified that defendant came to his grocery store in Mount Airy in 1979. He asked if Puckett would be interested in buying items from the Thomas and Howard warehouse in ...

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