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Battles v. State

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

April 27, 2018

Dock Battles
v.
State of Alabama

          Appeal from Calhoun Circuit Court (CC-17-658)

          WELCH, JUDGE.

         Following a bench trial, Dock Battles was convicted of being in possession of a pistol when he was included in a class of certain persons forbidden to have a pistol, a violation of § 13A-11-72(a), Ala. Code 1975. On September 21, 2017, Battles was sentenced as a habitual felony offender to 21 years' imprisonment.

         The evidence presented at trial indicated that on January 2, 2017, Battles's vehicle was stopped by a police officer for failing to signal a turn and for having an expired tag. Battles, who had no identification on him, gave the officer a fake name and Social Security number. The vehicle was towed, and, during an inventory search, a pistol was found under the seat.

         Before trial, Battles filed several pro se motions and also sent letters to the trial judge. In his correspondence, Battles stated, among other things, that he wanted to represent himself and to waive his right to a jury trial. At a pretrial hearing on July 13, 2017, the trial court stated that Battles had informed the court that he did not wish to have an attorney representing him and that, as a result, the court had relieved the attorney who had been appointed to represent him. The trial court then asked if Battles wanted the motions he had filed before the court heard with no attorney representing him. Battles responded that he did. Battles moved to have his bond reduced, and, after hearing arguments from both parties, the trial court denied the motion. At the hearing, Battles also requested a bench trial. The trial court asked Battles to put in writing that he was waiving his right to a jury trial. On July 18, 2017, Battles filed a written waiver. The next day, the trial court entered an order granting Battles's request for a bench trial.

         On August 30, 2017, the court called Battles's case for trial. The court read the indictment to Battles, briefly set forth the procedure the trial court would follow, and informed Battles of his rights during the trial. Battles told the trial court that several charges were pending but that the court had mentioned only the weapons offense. The trial court then asked the State if it wished to go forward on the six indictments at that time or just the weapons offense. The State replied that the cases had not been consolidated for trial and that it was prepared to go forward with the weapons charge before the court. Battles stated that he did not understand the nature of the weapons offense. The trial court responded:

"Okay. Well, I've already read the indictment to you. It states that you had a weapon, a Glock pistol, on or about January 2nd of 2017 at or near the 900 Block of West 19th Street in Anniston in Calhoun County. You possessed this weapon after having been convicted of a crime of violence, and that offense would have been murder."

(R. 6.)

         Battles asked if the matter was "criminal jurisdiction, " and the court stated that it was a criminal offense. Battles then asked if the matter was admiralty maritime or equity jurisdiction to which the court replied, "No." (R. 7.) The court provided Battles with the Code section pursuant to which he was charged. Battles stated that he did not have the statutory rules of court so he "couldn't be possibly prepared." (R. 7.) The trial court stated that it was going forward with the trial and instructed the State to call its first witness.

         The State called several witnesses. After the direct examination of each witness, the court asked Battles if he wanted to ask the witness any questions. Battles stated that he did not and that he did not understand the nature of the charge against him. After the State rested its case, the court asked Battles if he wished to make a statement or call any witnesses. Battles stated:

"Well, I would just like to say that I haven't been afforded the statutory rules of court in this matter, and I don't know anything about any previous conviction because the State has failed to provide me with previous notices of any attempt to use any kind of enhancement factors. I would also like to say that the State has not presented -- I haven't seen any victim or injured parties in this proceeding."

(R. 26-7.)

         The trial court responded:

"All right. Thank you very much. I have been made aware that you have requested access to a law library, and you have written the Court requesting certain things. So I made the jail provide a list of all of the legal resources that were available at the jail and the times that you went to the law library at ...

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