Friday, May 06, 2016

Rishor v. Furguson (9th Cir. - May 6, 2016)

I often like reading the specific Faretta admonitions that district courts give to criminal defendants who ask to represent themselves at trial.  They're typically spot on, and really do try to convince the defendant that it's an incredibly bad idea to ditch an attorney.

The trial court here did that in spades.  Here's what the judge said:

"THE COURT: [I]n my 30 years of being on both sides of the courtroom as a defense counsel, prosecutor and now 12 years as a judge in a criminal case I have never seen anybody who has ever represented themselves competently; do you understand that?


THE COURT: If you represent yourself incompetently you’re stuck with you and you suffer the consequences. The consequences if convicted, the State informs me, is a sentence of life without possibility of parole.

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir. I fully understand that.

THE COURT: And that as a practical matter if you represent yourself—and this is just me talking up here.


THE COURT: As a practical matter the court might as well sign an order sending you to prison without possibility of parole right now because you’re going to screw your case up; do you understand that?"

Well now.  Tell us what you really think, Your Honor.

Despite those warnings, the defendant represented himself.  And, predictably . . . .

Was acquitted.

Wait.  What?!

Okay, so he wasn't totally acquitted.   The jury acquitted him on the two charged counts of second degree assault (counts 2 and 3), convicted him on the charge of unlawful possession of a firearm (count 4), and impliedly acquitted him on the greater charge of first degree assault (count 1) by convicting him of the lesser-included offense of second degree assault.  As a result of these wins, the trial court did not, in fact, "sign an order sending you to prison without possibility of parole right now," but instead sentenced him to 115 months in prison.

No small sentence, to be sure.  But nothing near LWOP.

Rarely do you see good things come to a person who represents himself.  And, perhaps, an actual attorney could have done even better.

Still.  Something unusual.  In that the defendant's decision to represent himself here was not an unmitigated disaster.