Susan E. Sturdivant, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.
from the Carroll Superior Court, The Honorable Kurtis Fouts,
Judge, Trial Court Cause No. 08D01-1408-F6-19
Attorney for Appellant Steven Knecht Vonderheide &
Knecht, P.C. Lafayette, Indiana.
Attorneys for Appellee Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of
Indiana Angela N. Sanchez Deputy Attorney General
VAIDIK, CHIEF JUDGE.
Charged with possession of methamphetamine and other
offenses, Susan Sturdivant told the trial court-at multiple
pretrial hearings over the course of fourteen months-that she
wanted to waive her right to counsel and represent herself.
The court allowed her to do so, and a jury convicted her on
all charges. Now represented by an attorney, Sturdivant
claims that she is mentally ill and that the trial court
should have denied her request for self-representation under
Indiana v. Edwards, 554 U.S. 164 (2008), which
recognized the authority of trial courts to insist upon
representation by counsel for those defendants who
"suffer from severe mental illness to the point where
they are not competent to conduct trial proceedings by
themselves." Because the trial court was in the best
position to judge Sturdivant's competency and there is no
evidence that Sturdivant was suffering from "severe
mental illness, " we affirm the trial court's
decision to allow her to conduct her own defense.
and Procedural Background
Early one morning in August 2014, a Delphi police officer
stopped Sturdivant's pickup after Sturdivant twice failed
to use a turn signal. Other officers arrived at the scene,
and Sturdivant's behavior-"yelling and screaming,
" "talking extremely fast, " "licking her
lips constantly, " "fidgeting a lot, "
10/27/15 Tr. p. 27-30-led to a dog sniff of her pickup. The
dog alerted to the presence of drugs, and the officers found
marijuana and a clear baggie containing a white powdery
substance that tested positive for methamphetamine. An
officer then obtained a warrant to test Sturdivant's
blood, which revealed the presence of methamphetamine.
Sturdivant was charged with possession of methamphetamine,
possession of marijuana, operating while intoxicated, and
operating with a controlled substance in her body.
At the initial hearing on August 25, 2014, Sturdivant and the
other defendants present were advised as follows with regard
to the right to counsel:
Each of you have the right to be represented by an attorney
in all stages of the proceedings including trial and appeal.
If you intend to employ an attorney, you should do so within
twenty days of this initial hearing if you are charged with a
felony or within ten days if you are charged with a
misdemeanor. The reason for that is  that there are
deadlines for raising defenses and filing motions and if
those deadlines are missed then the legal issues and the
defenses that you could have raised would be waived. If you
don't have the money, means, or property to employ your
own attorney, you have the right to have an attorney
appointed for you at no expense to you. You are not required
to have an attorney. You do have a constitutional right to
represent yourself. But before you do that you should realize
that you may conduct a defense as to your own detriment.
Meaning you could do yourself more harm than good. You
won't uh receive any special favors or indulgences from
the Court just because you don't have a lawyer.
You'll have to abide by the same standards as a lawyer as
to the law and procedure. And the State will be represented
by an experienced professional legal counsel. And at
today's hearing that is Mr. Bean seated to my left and
your right today. Uh an attorney's experience, knowledge
of the law, possible defenses, and technical rules or
procedures and evidence would be valuable in evaluating,
negotiating, preparing, and presenting your case.
8/25/14 Tr. p. 4-5. Later, as the court discussed
Sturdivant's specific charges and potential penalties
with her, Sturdivant said, "The Constitution of the
citizens rights state a person cannot pass or bridge any law
to violate a person's constitutional right. It's
wrote on eight and a half by eleven, a legal documentation,
it's eight and a half by fourteen, to the clerk . . .
." Id. at 12. Nonetheless, Sturdivant
eventually stated that she understood the charges against
her. The court then asked, "[D]id you want to be
represented by a lawyer?" Id. at 18. Sturdivant
responded, "No I do not." Id.
At a pretrial conference held in October 2014, the trial
court noted its concern with Sturdivant's
Court: Ms. Sturdivant are [you] still intending to uh
Sturdivant: Yes sir.
Court: Alright. I'm concern[ed] about that. But it's
Sturdivant: It is my right.
10/8/14 Tr. p. 4. The court also addressed various discovery
and scheduling ...