Tax Cheat Cheats Himself
U.S. v. Murphy, 06-1309 (7th Cir., Dec. 8, 2006)
Here’s a criminal tax appeal with amusing facts. Faced with allegations that he had defrauded the government of hundreds of thousands of dollars in income tax, defendant Glen Murphy needed an attorney. But attorneys cost money, money that Murphy did not want to pay. So he claimed he was indigent and therefore entitled to a publicly funded attorney, but – here’s the catch – he refused to prove his indigency, arguing that providing financial information to the court violated his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
After several private attorneys refused to represent Murphy – perhaps because he demanded that the attorneys present frivolous defenses or, more likely, because he was offering only a $20 retainer – the district court decided that Murphy had impliedly waived his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. It proceeded to try him without an attorney, and a jury convicted Murphy. The Seventh Circuit affirms, noting that Murphy was somehow able to retain a private attorney for his appeal. Judge Evans’ opinion is well worth a read if you are looking for some pre-weekend entertainment.