By Julian Verdon
SACRAMENTO – Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette was informed here Friday that a defendant kept firing his attorneys in an effort to delay his trial and manipulate the court process.
At least that is what Deputy District Attorney Kendra Havlick stated, alleging defendant Marquis Walker fired his first attorney, Steve Nelson, before hiring another, Linda Parisi, on the day of the trial.
“We were sent out to trial where Steve Nelson was representing him on August fifth. At that time, right at the day of trial, [Walker] indicated he was going to hire Linda Parisi. I objected at that time to the continuance since we were already in a trial courtroom. However, your Honor did allow [Walker] to retain Ms. Parisi,” said Havlick.
Judge Marlette then asked if Havlick was referring to him, as the judge, and she said she was. She then explained that, after hiring Parisi, Walker fired her shortly afterward, delaying the justice process even further.
“[The case] is back again for trial on the (Nov. 23), and Mr. Walker is now trying to fire his attorney for the third time,” said Havlick. “I believe a defendant is granted leniency when choosing the attorney of their choice and can fire the retained attorney without cause. A defendant does not have an absolute right to retain and fire attorneys when they choose, especially when it is untimely and results in a disruption of the orderly process of justice.”
Havlick then went on to allege the reasons why Walker was delaying the process, noting that “in this case, every time there is a trial coming up (Walker) …wants a different attorney…to delay the trial or try to get a better offer, which at this point is not going to happen.”
Couzens then wanted to go over the plea negotiations with Havlick and the defense. She wants to charge Walker with a DUI charge for up to two years in prison with a prior strike, doubling Walker’s sentence to four years.
Under California’s three-strikes law, a defendant convicted of a felony while also having committed a prior strike—a past felony—gets their sentence doubled. Although Walker committed a DUI, which would generally count as a misdemeanor, he committed up to three or more DUIs in the past 10 years. Therefore, his DUI counted as a felony and, thus, a second strike offense.
Couzens then said that he made other offers for reduced sentencing, but Havlick would not budge when it came to Walker’s current plea offer.
“We’ve had fairly extensive plea bargaining sessions, but (Havlick) remains steadfast and immovable about the fact that she wants (Walker’s term doubled),” said Couzens.
Judge Marlette responded, “This issue is not going to turn on what is the right disposition for this case. It turns on whether Mr. Walker has good cause to delay this trial in order to replace his attorneys.”
Judge Marlette then made his decision on Walker’s actions.
“I am going to find that Mr. Walker is attempting to manipulate the court’s process in order to delay his trial. In this case, he had just given very general objections to Mr. Couzen’s representation. He (Walker) appears to be an intelligent man, although he is also quite stubborn…(he) certainly understands that his attorney is not in charge of what offers the District Attorney makes, and there are some things not in his attorney’s power.”
Judge Marlette then denied Walker’s request to fire Mr. Couzens and confirmed the trial date for Nov. 23. However, Judge Marlette offered Walker and Couzens another chance to settle the case before going to trial.
Couzens then became upset since Walker had not paid him for trial representation and only for his contributions during the negotiations process. Now Couzens had been ordered by the court to represent Walker although he was not retained for trial. Walker denied Couzens’ assertions.
However, Couzens said he would just suffer through it when Judge Marlette questioned him on it further. Couzens and Walker then left to discuss the terms of accepting Havlick’s proposed plea offer.
After about an hour of deliberation with his attorney, Walker decided to plead no contest and accept the plea deal given to him by the prosecution.
Julian Verdon is a senior at UCLA majoring in English. He is from Los Angeles California.
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