Submitted on Briefs: October 16, 2019
FROM: District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and
For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DC 16-627 Honorable
Robert L. Deschamps, III, Presiding Judge.
Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, Alexander H.
Pyle, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Mardell
Ployhar, Assistant Attorney General. Helena, Montana Kirsten
H. Pabst, Missoula County Attorney, Ryan Mickelson, Deputy
County Attorney, Missoula, Montana
On May 31, 2017, a jury in the Fourth Judicial District
Court, Missoula County, found Jeromey Glenn Jones (Jones)
guilty of assault with a weapon and aggravated assault. For
each count, the District Court imposed a ten-year sentence,
with five years suspended, and ran the sentences
concurrently. Jones appeals his convictions, raising two
Did the District Court violate Jones's constitutional
right to self-representation by refusing his request to
represent himself at the February 14, 2017 omnibus hearing,
but otherwise allowing Jones to represent himself for the
duration of his case?
Did the District Court err in denying Jones a new trial after
the court considered the victim's post-trial recantations
and the overwhelming evidence of Jones's guilt produced
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On November 15, 2016, Jones and his girlfriend, Destinee
Dietsch (Dietsch), were arguing in their trailer after
Dietsch confronted Jones about pornography she discovered on
his phone. Jones became violent, punching and kicking Dietsch
several times; slamming her head into the trailer wall; and
strangling Dietsch, nearly causing her to pass out. Jones
used a knife to cut Dietsch's face around her eye and
then threatened to kill her, holding the knife to her face.
Dietsch escaped and, despite cold weather, ran to the Town
Pump a half-mile away without shoes. A Town Pump employee,
Ayla Godoy, saw Dietsch come "stumbling through the
door" with "blood all over her face." Dietsch
was very upset and exclaimed, "he's going to kill
me." When a store employee who knew Jones and Dietsch
announced that Jones was coming, Dietsch tried to crawl over
Godoy and a table to get away from him. Employees contacted
the police and attempted to "close her wounds" so
Dietsch was "not bleeding everywhere."
Law enforcement responded immediately. Officers identified
Dietsch, who was distraught and crying. While the officers
were talking to Dietsch, Jones entered the store. Jones was
defensive and voiced displeasure at law enforcement,
clenching his fists and standing in a "bladed"
position. Following his arrest, a knife was found in
Jones's pocket that matched the description Dietsch gave
of the knife used to cut her. Officers also observed Jones
had numerous scratch marks up and down his forearms, wrists
and elbows, which were consistent with defensive wounds made
by a victim trying to escape an assault.
Dietsch was taken to the hospital for treatment. She had a
broken nose; her face was swollen; she had bruising around
her neck; and scratches, abrasions, and bruises all over her
back. Dietsch explained to a nurse that she was kicked,
strangled, and abused by her boyfriend.
Dietsch gave law enforcement permission to search the trailer
where she lived with Jones. Inside, officers observed blood
on a sheet and damage to the wall caused by the impact of
Dietsch's head during the assault.
Jones was initially represented by public defender Reed
Mandelko (Mandelko). On January 10, 2017, the District Court
held an omnibus hearing and Mandelko prepared an omnibus
form. Jones indicated he would not sign the form and that he
did not want Mandelko to represent him. Jones said he wanted
to represent himself. The court expressed it was reluctant to
allow Jones to represent himself and questioned Jones
extensively regarding his educational background and legal
training. The court warned Jones that other defendants who
have chosen to represent themselves "end up making a
mess of things" and asked Jones, "[a]re you willing
to conform with the rules that I set down on how to proceed
in a courtroom?" Jones replied, "[y]es, sir."
The court granted Jones's request to represent himself
and continued the omnibus hearing one week to allow Jones to
read the omnibus form and make any changes he saw necessary.
On January 17, 2017, the court held another omnibus hearing.
Jones represented himself and Mandelko was present as standby
counsel. The court asked Jones if he had an omnibus form
ready. Jones replied, "I do have the omnibus form but it
was what Mr. Mandelko signed and filled out and I do not
agree with that." The court responded that "you
have the ability, sir, as your own attorney to fill out that
omnibus form" and the court tried to go through the
omnibus form with Jones. Jones, however, was unresponsive and
did not answer the court's questions. Jones kneeled down
on the floor of the courtroom, crying. The court expressed
concern "in view of this behavior in the courtroom, if
we should have the defendant's fitness evaluated."
Jones stated, "I'm sorry, your honor, I just got
given something that I can't get my head right."
Following Jones's emotional behavior, the court
concluded, "I don't find that you're at the
minimum, competent to represent yourself." Jones
replied, "I'm really not sir." As a result, the
court reinstated Mandelko as counsel. Jones then indicated,
"I want nothing to do with this man." Mandelko
requested a two-week continuance of the omnibus hearing. The
court rescheduled the omnibus hearing, again stating, "I
really am concerned about his fitness."
The record reflects a third omnibus hearing was held February
7, 2017, although Jones has not provided this Court with a
transcript. The minutes, however, indicate that Mandelko
presented the court with a completed omnibus form, which
Jones refused to sign. The court apparently questioned Jones,
but he refused to answer. After this omnibus hearing,
Mandelko filed a motion requesting a hearing on Jones's
desire to represent himself. The court scheduled a hearing
for February 14, 2017.
On February 14, 2017, Mandelko indicated to the court that
Jones still wished to represent himself. The court recalled
that Jones had previously "melted down" and was
concerned that Jones might not be competent to represent
himself. Mandelko explained that Jones was emotional because
for a brief time there was a question whether Dietsch was
alive. Mandelko suspected that Dietsch had committed suicide
due to information he discovered on Facebook. Mandelko had
been corresponding with an investigator to confirm
Dietsch's death. Jones was provided these emails during
the omnibus and mistook the contents to indicate that ...