Tuesday, January 31, 2012
S.C. Says Some Mentally Ill Defendants May Be Denied Right to Represent Themselves
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A defendant who is competent to represent himself but has serious mental problems may be denied the right of self-representation, the California Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
The court held unanimously that a Solano Superior Court judge acted within his discretion in ruling that Andrew D. Johnson could not continue to represent himself on two separate assault charges, one involving a sexual attack on a Vallejo bartender and the other in which he allegedly hit the patron of a sandwich shop with a chair.
Johnson went to trial with a court-appointed lawyer and was convicted on both counts.
Justice Ming Chin, writing for the high court, cited Indiana v. Edwards (2008) 554 U.S. 164, in which the justices held that a defendant who was found competent might be denied self-representation if he or she suffered from mental illness so serious that he or she could not effectively present a defense without a lawyer.
Johnsonís appellate counsel argued that California should recognize a broader right of self-representation. But Chin said this state has never held that there is any such right under the state Constitution or statutes.
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