By Lauren Smith
SACRAMENTO – “I feel that I can represent myself better than anybody else can.”
Defendant Jesse Rayburn made this bold statement at his arraignment in Sacramento County Superior Court late last week, when arguing for why he is capable of representing himself.
Charged with a felony complaint of possession of ammunition or a firearm with a previous strike and driving on a suspended or revoked license with a maximum sentence of six years and 180 days, Rayburn didn’t make it easy for the court from the very beginning.
When asked by Judge Scott L. Tedmon, “What is your true name?” Rayburn responded, “I’m much more than a name, sir.”
When questioned about his last name for the record, the defendant stated, “I don’t have a last name, I have a family name.” However, upon further inquiry, he stated that he is “pretty sure” that Rayburn is his family name.
As Judge Tedmon read the charges, the deputy discovered that the defendant’s phone is on inside the courtroom—a major sin in court proceedings. The deputy requested that the judge advise Rayburn to “turn his phone off and not record in the courtroom.”
Judge Tedmon immediately admonished Rayburn, noting, “That is a court order, Mr. Rayburn. You are not allowed to record court proceedings. Turn your phone off. If you don’t the phone will be taken from you for the duration of this proceeding.”
After Rayburn obliged and the court asked if he needs an attorney, the defendant stated, “I will be representing myself.”
The court asked Rayburn what his level of experience is in the legal field and in representing himself, and the defendant explained, spending his “whole life in the system” and that he is “reading law books.”
When further questioned about whether he understands that “representing yourself is different than understanding the law,” Rayburn challenged the authority and credibility of Deputy District Attorney Anissa Galata, stating, “I just want to know that the DA, as my public servant, has the authority to be even bothering me with something that doesn’t even have a victim.”
Judge Tedmon promptly asked if the defendant agrees “that this court has jurisdiction over you in this criminal matter.”
When Rayburn agreed, the judge stated that “we are not going to get into whether the DA has any jurisdictional power to proceed with this case. If you want to file motions later that’s fine; that’s up to you. What I’m trying to determine is if I’m going to allow you to represent yourself or not.”
Judge Tedmon continued to question Rayburn’s familiarity with the law, of representing himself and his level of experience in the courtroom.
Rayburn’s reasoning, he said, on why he should represent himself is “who better to represent me than me.”
He told the court that he plans on “doing some study” and “getting some [experience]” in representing himself. Rayburn shared that he is “actually pretty confident” in his ability to represent himself, stating, “I am a grown man. I think I got experience in life to be able to take this.”
Judge Tedmon responded with, “All right, well, experience in life is much different than experience in the courtroom.”
He further advised Rayburn that “it is not wise to represent yourself in a criminal case. Having an attorney that has experience to represent you is far better than representing yourself. I would also tell you from my own personal experience, I was a criminal defense attorney for 35 years and I think it is not wise for you to represent yourself even though it is clear to the court you feel confident that you can do so.”
The judge concluded that “it’s clear to the court that Mr. Rayburn is convinced he can represent himself…I find that his request to do so is made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily and he is representing himself with the full knowledge of the risks and dangers of doing so as advised by the court. I am going to allow Mr. Rayburn to proceed as a self-represented person in this case.”
Before leaving the courtroom, Rayburn attempted to ask a question, but before he could finish Judge Tedmon interrupts, stating, “I can’t answer any questions for you. You are representing yourself.”
Mr. Rayburn’s next court date for bail and other proceedings is July 23.
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