Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Court of Appeal:
Court’s Ire at ‘Shenanigans’ Not Ground to Deny Self-Representation
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A trial court erred by denying a criminal defendant’s request to represent himself, the Third District Court of Appeal said yesterday, holding that the judge’s exasperation at the defendant’s alleged “shenanigans” was not enough on its own to show that self-representation would be a threat to the core integrity of the trial.
The opinion was written by Acting Presiding Justice Harry E. Hull Jr. It was not certified for publication.
Defendant Anderson P. Thurston, who was being tried in Amador Superior Court in three cases. In two of the cases, he was represented by counsel; in the third case, he was representing himself.
At a hearing for the purpose of appointing substitute counsel for Thurston in the two cases in which he was represented, retired Monterey Superior Court Judge Robert Moody, sitting on assignment, remarked:
“One thing I don’t want to do is have a situation where [petitioner] represents himself in one case and has counsel in other cases. So...you are going to have to select which route you want to go, whether you want to represent yourself in all of these cases or whether you want to be represented by counsel in all of them. It’s one or the other.”
Thurston insisted that, pursuant to the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the 1975 U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Faretta v. California, he had the right to proceed in pro per in the one case. Moody responded:
“It’s illegal to proceed and impractical as well to proceed with a person who says that he wants to represent himself in two cases, but he doesn’t want to represent himself in a third case. It’s impractical, causes headaches for the Court, the administration of justice.”
The judge added that the court was “going to stop with all of the shenanigans that you’ve been pulling all along” and was not “going to spin wheels in these cases forever.”
Series of Petitions
Thurston’s first petition for a writ of mandate was denied by the Third District. He claimed that Moody had denied him a transcript of the relevant proceedings, but he failed to attach any other supporting documentation.
The defendant made a second petition, which was again denied for lack of a supporting record.
He next asked the state Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus, which it treated as a petition for review. This time, he provided the high court with the relevant transcript.
The Supreme Court stayed all proceedings in the case and ordered the Third District to vacate its previous denial of Thurston’s petition and issue an alternative writ.
The prosecution conceded that Thurston is entitled to relief.
Two Reasons Rejected
“Here, the respondent court gave two reasons for terminating petitioner’s Faretta rights, neither of which is supported. First, the court indicated that allowing petitioner to represent himself in the instant action but not in two other pending criminal actions was illegal and impractical, and would adversely affect the administration of justice. We fail to see how petitioner’s self-representation in one case, while being represented by counsel in two others, constitutes ‘obstructive behavior [that] seriously threatens the core integrity of the trial.’…
“The respondent court’s second reason for revoking petitioner’s right to self-representation was that petitioner had engaged in ‘shenanigans,’ causing the court to ‘spin [its] wheels.’ But, again, the respondent court made no record to support this assertion. And the People have not provided us with any portion of the record that supports the claim.”
The case is Thurston v. Superior Court, C086253.
In 2006, Moody, while still on the Monterey Superior Court, sent a letter to jurors rebuking them for failing to convict an alleged murderer.
A Feb. 9, 2006 editotrial in the The Bakersfield Californian commented: “How can we expect children to take responsibility if we do not hold their parents responsible? [¶] How can we expect children not to drink, drive and kill people if “cool” irresponsible parents place alcohol in their children’s hands? [¶] We ask these questions as a Monterey County Superior Court judge says he is inclined to go easy on a “cool” father who gave his daughter liquor to party on the 2004 Memorial Day weekend, despite knowing that she was an alcoholic.”
The California Supreme Court in 2016 reversed a death sentence based on Moody’s dismissal of a prospective jurors who had given ambivalent responses in a questionaire concerning his views on the death penalty, saying that Moody should have questioned the man.
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