Monday, January 23, 2023

People v. Waldon (Cal. Supreme Ct. - Jan. 23, 2023)

Billy Ray Waldon seems to have committed a wide variety of murders (or at least so the jury found) in San Diego and, perhaps, elsewhere. He's not a guy, quite honestly, that I want back out on the street.

If I'm totally honest: Ever.

He's also fairly clearly got mental difficulties. Not that he's not seemingly quite smart. But he appears very much delusional. For example: "Waldon represented himself at trial. His defense was that federal agents framed him for the charged crimes to thwart his efforts to promote world peace, spread new languages, and advance Cherokee autonomy." 

More details, you ask? "Waldon claimed that he met a man named Mark Williams who kept appearing in various locations in Italy, Germany, and California, where Waldon was pursuing his education and activism. Waldon believed that Williams and another man were CIA agents who were monitoring him. . . . Men wearing ski masks and shirts that said “Federal Agent” joined Williams in beating Waldon; they cursed Poliespo and Waldon’s promotion of Indian autonomy. The men bound Waldon, took him away in their van, and kept him chained to a chair with a plastic hood over his head. Waldon managed to escape but learned from a news article that he was wanted for murder. He lived as a fugitive in a crawl space under a house in Imperial Beach, fearing that he would be convicted despite his innocence if he turned himself in."

To the surprise of no one (except, perhaps, Mr. Waldon), the jury rejects this defense and sentences Mr.Waldon to death for the murders.

The California Supreme Court unanimously reverses. Mr. Waldon shouldn't have been allowed to represent himself at trial.

It's hard to argue with that result. We don't want delusional people defending themselves. Lest we potentially put innocent people to death.

Which is not to say that Mr. Waldon is necessarily innocent. I strongly suspect he'll be found guilty at his retrial. In any event, he's been in prison forever. The murders at issue here were committed in 1985. That's nearly 40 years ago. It seems like he's been in prison since then on these charges, and the appeals have taken this long already. So now they'll be a retrial, more appeals, etc.

Mr. Waldon's already 59 years old. He's going to die in prison one way or the other, I believe. We're just shuffling paper around to make sure that everything goes as it should. (Eventually.)

One last thing. When someone files something like this, that's a pretty good indication that a guy might not be "all there" sufficient to allow the guy to defend himself in a capital murder case:

"In a December 1988 petition filed in propria persona, Waldon asked to represent himself “with full assistance of counsel” required to “obey” him. He stated that if his request were denied, he would seek to waive counsel and represent himself. In the nearly 100-page petition, Waldon complained of the “rampant sexual promiscuity” of his “omnivaginal” former trial counsel, alleging that counsel engaged in domineering sexual practices; sexual relations with inmates, judges, and prosecutors; drug dealing and Mafia involvement; and efforts to have a hit man kill him, among other menacing, unlawful, and sexually motivated conduct. Waldon claimed that counsel was “a brilliant and extremely dominating man, trapped in a woman’s body,” and that she tried to seduce him out of selfrepresentation by exposing her breasts to him."

Yep. Sounds persuasive to me. Definitely a guy I want representing himself in a life-or-death dispute.