By Mella Bettag
SACRAMENTO – During the flurry of arraignments, sentencings, and continuances on the Sacramento County Superior Court Dept. 62 calendar, several defendants tried to voice their concerns and queries to Court Commissioner Ken Brody.
He was having none of it.
Legal procedure can be monotonous—it’s often very similar, if not identical, in different hearings throughout the court day. For example, a judge might read through the same probation conditions for different cases, and after each question in a plea hearing, one expects to hear a simple yes or no from the defendant.
Often, defendants’ answers follow a pattern as well. Almost every time, the defendants say yes when asked whether they waive their rights to a jury trial, or no when they are asked if they have any further questions. When the pattern is broken, the court, so accustomed to the typical answer, is thrown off.
For Commissioner Brody, unlikely answers elicited frustration or dismissal.
In the case of Anthony Grandberry, the court replied in apparent scorn to the defendant’s mistake of misinterpreting the role of the public defender.
During his plea to a concealed firearm carry, Grandberry was asked whether he had talked to his lawyer about all possible defenses and outcomes of his plea, a required question during a sentencing. To this, Grandberry replied that he had not, despite having Assistant Public Defender Scott Franklin as counsel throughout his case.
It became clear that Grandberry had mistakenly believed that a public defender played a different role than a private defense attorney.
Brody responded sharply, saying “public defenders are attorneys, sir.” After Grandberry apologized for his error, Brody went on to assert once again that public defenders are “not to be mistaken” as anything other than qualified attorneys.
Throughout the rest of the hearing, Brody remained hostile toward Grandberry, and provided him with clipped answers to his questions, but not much more.
In several arraignments following, such as the hearing of Ray Lutin, who faces charges of personal theft and resisting arrest, Brody did not acknowledge the defendant speaking. Instead, both Brody and counsel continued procedure. Lutin was shown out before being given a chance to speak.
By the end of the morning, it was clear that Commissioner Brody had had enough of defendants speaking during routine court procedure. In the case of Salamon Abdi, who faces charges of illegal baton possession, Brody showed his frustration.
Abdi had several concerns with his plea, and wanted to discuss the possibilities. He brought up his property that had been taken by police after his arrest, the length of his probation, and his behavior on probation.
After a couple of minutes of discussion Brody interrupted, saying, “I can’t stay here negotiating all morning.”
As Abdi continued to ask questions about his probation, Judge Brody attempted to reschedule his case. After a couple of clarifying questions from defender Franklin, Abdi was eventually sentenced to 180 days county jail—which can be done on the sheriff’s work project, five years formal felony probation—with weapons conditions, search conditions, general probation terms and drug conditions, and three years informal probation with stay-away orders, victim restitution, and no burglary tools. Minimal fines and fees.
To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9