Argued May 28, 2015.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. No.2:12-cv-00320-NJ -- Nancy Joseph, Magistrate Judge.
For Laderian Mcghee, Petitioner - Appellant: James F. Tierney, Attorney, Mayer Brown Llp, Washington, DC.
For Michael A. Dittmann, Respondent - Appellee: Christopher G. Wren, Attorney, Office of The Attorney General, Wisconsin Department of Justice, Madison, WI.
Before BAUER, EASTERBROOK, and RIPPLE, Circuit Judges.
Ripple, Circuit Judge.
Laderian McGhee filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, challenging his 2004 convictions in Wisconsin state court. In the petition, he asserted, among other claims, that the state court had deprived him of his Sixth Amendment right to self-representation under Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 95 S.Ct. 2525, 45 L.Ed.2d 562 (1975). The district court denied the petition. We granted a certificate of appealability limited to his self-representation claim. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the district court.
In the early morning hours of April 9, 2004, two women were mugged on the street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and their purses taken. A vehicle was also taken from the street and driven to another location. Police arrested Mr. McGhee in connection with the offenses.
Mr. McGhee was later charged in the Milwaukee County Circuit Court with armed robbery, theft of movable property from a person, and operating a vehicle without the owner's consent. The public defender's office appointed attorney Richard E. Thomey II as his counsel.
Mr. McGhee was tried by a jury in August 2004. On the
first day of trial, defense counsel notified the court that Mr. McGhee wished to
raise an alibi defense and requested that he be allowed to call two unlisted
witnesses. Counsel acknowledged that he had not provided proper notice of this
defense, but explained that Mr. McGhee had not mentioned it to him until two
days before trial. Defense counsel also moved to withdraw as Mr. McGhee's
attorney. He submitted that withdrawal was warranted because (1) Mr. McGhee wished to discharge him; and (2) based on his knowledge of the case, he believed that putting on Mr. McGhee's alibi defense raised " certain ethical problems."  After hearing arguments from both sides, the court denied the motions.
Following the court's rulings, Mr. McGhee asked to speak, at which point the following exchange occurred:
THE DEFENDANT: Okay. Well, first of all, the man never--my attorney never asked me about no alibi. So how can I address him with my alibi if I never even seen him? I called his office several times. He doesn't return my phone calls to come see me. How can I tell him I have a alibi if I can't get in touch with him? I'm in the prison. I'm incarcerated. He's my attorney. He supposed to come see me. He doesn't come see me.
Second of all, for him to sit up here and say something about my witnesses as far as perjury or anything of that nature, that's a bunch of BS also. I don't know where that came from.
And for you to sit up and try to tell me this man going to be my attorney 'cause of the 15 day thing, the man didn't tell me nothing about that. I'm withdrawing him as my attorney. That's the bottom line of that.
THE COURT: All right. You wanted me to discharge him. Do you understand today we're going to trial today?
THE DEFENDANT: We--I ain't going to no trial today.
THE COURT: We're going to trial.
THE DEFENDANT: You might be going to trial. I ain't.
THE COURT: All right. Now I'll explain to you that if you--
THE DEFENDANT: You ain't explain shit to me 'cause I ain't going to no motherfucking trial, period.
THE COURT: If you decide to be disruptive--
THE DEFENDANT: Fuck the trial. I ain't going to no motherfucking trial. What part of that don't you understand?
MR. THOMEY: For my part, I know you denied this motion already, but I'm asking the Court to reconsider.
THE DEFENDANT: You going to make me go to trial with a motherfucker that got me guilty before I even get in this motherfucker.
MR. THOMEY: I think it'd be difficult for he and I to cooperate in conducting his defense in light of his recent statements.
THE COURT: All right. Mr. McGhee, I'm going to give you an opportunity to calm down. I'm going to give you an opportunity to remain in the courtroom. However, if you're going to--
THE DEFENDANT: The man ain't got my best interest at heart. You sitting here trying to make me go to trial with a man who already got me convicted before the damn jury even get in. What fucking part of that don't you understand?
THE COURT: All right. You can remove the defendant from the courtroom at this point. Just before the jury comes back, I'll give him an opportunity to return to the courtroom.
THE DEFENDANT: I'm not returning to this motherfucker. Evidently you don't understand. This man got me guilty before I even fucking get in the motherfucking courtroom. Shit. What part this jackass doesn't understand?
The court later allowed Mr. McGhee to return to the courtroom. Despite the court's warnings, however, Mr. McGhee did not stay silent for long. Shortly after the start of voir dire, defense counsel, while introducing himself, told prospective jurors that Mr. McGhee would be the only defense witness. Mr. McGhee immediately objected to this remark, stating, " Wait a minute. Wait a minute. What happened to my witnesses?"  It appears from the transcript that the court initially tried to ignore Mr. McGhee's interjection. Mr. McGhee, however, continued to press the issue, at which point the following colloquy took place:
THE DEFENDANT: Your Honor, I want to know how come my witnesses can't come? My attorney apparently doesn't--
THE COURT: Mr. McGhee, you get an opportunity to speak through your lawyer.
THE DEFENDANT: I ...