CASPER, Wyo. -- Robert Broyles is left with three choices. His original two -- filing charges against the man officials say he tried to kill, and then obtaining a new public defender -- didn’t pan out.
Broyles was denied his request of replacement counsel at a hearing in Natrona County District Court on Friday morning. He now has the options of whether to stick it out with his current attorney, continue to seek private counsel or represent himself.
The defendant has doggedly proclaimed his innocence at nearly every hearing since his July 4 arrest, when police say he stabbed a man in the head. Broyles even maintained his original story at what was slated to be a change of plea hearing on Nov. 1. He instead announced he wished to replace his current public defender, Tim Cotton.
Such a decision is highly unusual, said Natrona County Public Defender Robert Oldham on Friday. It is even more unusual for a court to grant those requests.
Broyles spoke to the Star-Tribune on Wednesday from the Natrona County Detention Center, two days prior to learning that Cotton would remain his attorney. He was nearly as fervent about his distaste for his public defender as he was about his claim of innocence.
When speaking of the night in question, Broyles said he is still bewildered at what caused the fight in the first place.
Broyles said he and two friends were traveling together, camping in Casper for the night while he was en route to North Dakota to find work.
“We were just sitting there drinking, and all the sudden (the male) kicks me in the face, beating the crap out of me,” he said. “I kept seeing flashes of light, and he gets up and runs off. I was laying there with (the female) when the cops came.”
Broyles said he was scared at that point that his attacker was coming back, which is why he screamed for the person to stay away and threatened to kill him.
He denied having anything to do with what police say was a knife wound in the man’s head and suggested the injury could have some other cause, such as falling on a rock.
None of the weapons tested, he said, contained the alleged victim’s DNA. At the interview, Broyles produced a sheet of paper containing lab results that would seem to support his claim.
Broyles said he thinks his attorney failed to represent his best interests and pushed him to accept a plea deal of 10 years.
“Why am I going to plead guilty to something I didn’t do?” he said. “They’re trying to sweep me under the carpet here. Just because I was homeless and only lived here for about six hours, they want me to take a plea bargain and go away quietly.”
As of Wednesday, Broyles said he hoped to be granted a new public defender or that a private attorney would agree to represent him at no cost.
“I’m not going to plead guilty,” he said. “I’m trying to get someone to work for me for free, or to do something else to pay him back. I’m tapped on funds right now.”
Although the Virginia native said he’s been studying Wyoming law as much as possible, he said he hopes he isn’t forced to represent himself. He will though, if he must.
At his Friday hearing, Broyles reiterated that he felt he was denied competent counseling and said his attorney made several biased comments about him being homeless -- including needing money to win an appeal.
“It’s not a fair trial when he’s down on me, yelling at me and telling me to take a plea bargain when I’m innocent,” Broyles said Friday.
Cotton disputed his client’s claims and said he had an ethical obligation to give Broyles an honest assessment of the evidence against him, including the likely outcome of a trial.
“I’ve put in a lot of time and effort on this case,” he said.
Public defender Robert Oldham, in the courtroom on Friday, offered to personally mediate any communication issues between Broyles and Cotton that may arise in the future. But he contested the claim that Broyles was not provided with adequate counsel.
“I don’t know anyone who fights harder for their client than Mr. Cotton,” he said.
District Judge Catherine Wilking echoed the attorney’s sentiments about Cotton’s capabilities, and she said Broyles seemed to be upset with the evidence against him and Cotton’s advisement.
Wilking said Broyles had not met his burden to prove inadequate counsel but agreed to take Oldham up on his offer.
“I can definitely say,” she said to Broyles in closing, “between Mr. Cotton and Mr. Oldham, you have some of the best representatives of defense in the state of Wyoming.”
Barring a change of plea, Broyles’ trial will be set at a later date.