By Susana Jurado
YOLO COUNTY – Yolo County Superior Court Judge David Rosenberg was accused of “court prejudice” repeatedly here last Friday during a preliminary hearing, by a defendant who wanted to represent himself at trial.
Defendant Daniel Christopher Roy accused the court of “admonish[ing] me and belittl[ing] me for wanting to represent myself,” after he declined a public defender and insisted on representing himself before the court.
Charged with three felony counts of stealing a car, burglary, and obstructing an executive officer, with a previous felony offense for violently assaulting another person this same year, Roy declared, “Court prejudice. court prejudice” in the Yolo County Superior courtroom.
Yolo County Deputy Public Defender Allison Zavala, appointed to Roy at that time, told the judge that she did not have a good factual basis on the case because the defendant was adamant on representing himself, even if he was incompetent to stand trial.
Judge Rosenberg told the public defender whether she had “declared a doubt,” giving notice that the judge must rule to suspend all criminal proceedings until the defendant has had an evaluation with a professional to confirm whether or not he is mentally competent to defend himself. She responded, “No, I have not.”
Judge Rosenberg then told the public defender to have a conversation with Roy about his decision, but she promptly responded, “I don’t think he wants to have one with me.”
As the judge clarified with Roy that this is indeed his decision, Roy reiterated his claim stating, “I am confident in my intelligence to represent myself to the court with reasonable understanding. I see no reason to have a conversation with a public defender after a declaration to the fact that I want to represent myself. So, the court and proceedings logically should be fine with me representing my own life.”
Judge Rosenberg disagreed, and explained why it wasn’t a good decision, noting, “Well there’s a lot of really intelligent people that should never represent themselves. I mean if you had an appendix problem, you wouldn’t be doing surgery on yourself, would you?”
Roy couldn’t refute the question and answered, “Yes, Your Honor, noting that if it is surgery, I would not. I am not a surgeon. No, I cannot do surgery on myself, but it is a pretrial hearing.”
“No, it’s more than that, you’re charged with felonies. These are significant charges, felonies that carry prison sentences. Did you ever go to law school?” fired back Judge Rosenberg, noting the seriousness of the charges.
Roy expressed that his inexperience with the law did not interfere with his ability to represent himself, adding, “I did not (go to law school), but I understand the basis of the law system and the charges.”
However, Judge Rosenberg pressed further, offering, “It’s a really bad idea to represent yourself when you’re charged with felonies. I strongly advise you not to do that. You’re going to give up a lot of rights when you do that. Including, for example, your right if you were ever convicted, you can’t appeal that charge on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel because you’re your own counsel. Honestly, it’s just a bad idea to do that.”
Deputy District Attorney Ron Johnson interrupted by providing evidence about the felony charges.
“Just so the court is aware, these are all captured on camera. Both Mr. Roy in the vehicle, him in the office, as well with the altercation with officers. I’m in the process of obtaining all of those surveillance footage which clearly show Mr. Roy,” he said, recommending the matter be sent to Mental Health Court, especially since Roy moved to represent himself.
Judge Rosenberg told Roy to complete a “Faretta form” so he can start on his own defense and advised him to review the form and look over the conditions that come from filling out that form before making any final decisions.
At that moment, Roy’s public defender submitted a declaration of doubt of the mental competency of Roy, which meant he had to be evaluated before any more decisions could be made on his case.
“Mr. Roy, the things I told you about representing yourself, I tell to every single person who asks me to represent themselves. I say the same thing to everyone. It’s pretty standard communication when a defendant says I want to represent myself,” the judge said before suspending for now all criminal proceedings relating to Roy.
The judge postponed the pretrial conference to Aug. 7 and preliminary hearing to Aug. 21 at 9 am in Dept. 14 at Yolo County Superior Court. Ms. Zavala will continue to represent Roy until further notice.
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