Monday, April 06, 2020

People v. Williams (Cal. Ct. App. - April 6, 2020)

I thought there might be nothing published today -- as was the case until late this afternoon --except an excruciatingly boring California Supreme Court opinion about whether excess insurance policies that govern multiple coverage years are subject to horizontal or vertical exhaustion rules.  Which was a frightening prospect, as I was at a total loss to make that thirty-page opinion at all interesting to pretty much anyone other than insurance coverage attorneys.

But then this opinion came out.

It's a disturbing stranger multiple rape case, with the facts of the first rape pretty much matching the prototypical fear of being randomly attacked and viciously raped in one's apartment.  For me, the fact that this rape occurred down here in San Diego, in an apartment complex I've repeatedly driven by (the location is listed in the opinion), made the facts even more personal.

I will say that I was impressed by all the participants to the criminal justice system here.  The trial judge, the prosecutor, the attorneys, the bailiffs -- everyone seemed to perform very admirably in the unusual situation of a defendant who made things particularly difficult (to say the least) at trial.  And even the defendant wasn't totally out of control; yes, he made things complicated, but surprisingly did so with at least a patina of respect.

(Representative lines: 

"I'm not -- you guys can pick the jury, if you like. I'm not going to be in this chair. I will be waiting by the door, or I guess I'll be . . . tased by your officers. I'm not sitting down. What I won't do is disrespect the jury when they come in here and yell things, out of . . . respect. But I'm telling you right now I'm done with this circus act here. I told you previous times that me and him have had problems, and I don't want him to represent me anymore."

"If you continue to proceed with this and dismiss my Marsden, I will stand up, and I won't curse in your courtroom because I'm not a disrespectful person, [but] I'm not going to play in this circus act here. If these fine gentlemen [i.e., the bailiffs] here attack or strike me or whatever, then so be it. . . . If you do not—if you dismiss my Marsden. I don't wish to be defiant or disrespectful. I'm not cursing you or violent or get at you personal, but I'm saying what is the best interest of me. This is the third time. Everything I say that you dismiss is all the reasons you have motives already, and you're not willing to compromise. Him as well. This is my life here, and you guys are playing with it."

"I told you I do not want to play in you guys' circus anymore. I've told you three separate times. The first time was two months ago. The other time was yesterday. The other time is today. I'm tired of doing this mouse game with you and him. I have no problem with the DA there. She's doing her job. But these two here, I'm tired playing this kind of game. Like what does someone have to do to allow you or to convince you that this is serious? This is someone's life here and that you guys can't do this to everybody. Someone has to get violent with you guys? Someone has to make threats with you guys? Someone has to die in custody to make you guys understand?")

Defendant ultimately gets sentenced to 186 years in prison.  Plus two months.  And the Court of Appeal affirms.

Not your usual trial.  Though one in which it seems like pretty much everyone involved acted very conscientiously and with sincere appreciation of the gravity of the underlying issues.