State v. Curry, ___ N.C. App. ___, 805 S.E.2d 552 (Oct. 17, 2017)

The trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying counsel’s motion to withdraw. The defendant was indicted for first-degree murder and armed robbery. Just prior to trial, the defendant provided defense counsel with a list of facts that he wished to concede to the jury: that he was at the scene of the crime; that he fired a gun; and that he was part of an attempted robbery. At a closed hearing, counsel advised the trial court that the defendant’s new admissions would impact his ability to handle the case. When he contacted the State Bar for guidance, it was suggested that he ask to withdraw because of a “personal conflict.” Counsel did so and the trial court denied the motion. Finding no abuse of discretion, the court noted that the personal conflict at issue related to counsel’s inability to believe what the defendant told him, in light of the eve of trial admissions. It noted:

As the State Bar confirmed, defense counsel did not have an actual conflict, and there is no evidence he breached the rules of professional conduct. Counsel had represented Defendant for nearly three years, and had presumably expended significant time and resources preparing for trial. In addition, there was no disagreement about trial strategy, nor was there an identifiable conflict of interest.

Moreover, the court concluded, the defendant could not show prejudice resulting from the denial of the motion to withdraw.