The Utah Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a 34-year-old Clinton man convicted of aggravated robbery because the trial judge failed to warn him of the risks of defending himself.
John M. Heaton was convicted on April 21, 1995, of armed robbery of an Albertsons grocery store in Roy and sentenced to five years to life in prison.But a unanimous Supreme Court said that, even though 2nd District Judge Michael Glasmann encouraged Heaton to rely on public defender John Caine, the justices felt that Glasmann "clearly did not advise Heaton of the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation."
During a pre-trial hearing, Heaton indicated he wanted a new attorney or he would represent himself. Glasmann allowed Heaton to defend himself, but required Caine to remain as standby counsel if Heaton needed assistance.
But Justice Leonard Russon, writing for the court, said that was not sufficient.
"Before the court may permit a defendant to proceed without the assistance of counsel, the court must conduct a thorough inquiry of the defendant to fulfill its duty of insuring the defendant's waiver of counsel is knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily made," Rus-son said.
"We therefore hold, because the trial court failed to advise Heaton at a minimum of the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation, Heaton did not validly waive his constitutional right to counsel," he wrote.
Heaton was on parole from the Utah State Prison for a third-degree felony burglary charge at the time of the July 13, 1994, Al-bert-sons holdup.
He finished his zero-to-five-year prison term for the burglary charge in February of last year which had been running concurrent with the now stricken five-to-life sentence for the armed robbery.