By Julian Navarro
WOODLAND – A man was intent on representing himself in Yolo County Superior Court here this past week, as he faced allegations of prowling and peeking at a victim.
It was clear he had no idea how to represent himself at trial in pro per, how to pick a jury or even call witnesses. Yet the trial will go on.
In fact, he repeatedly sought and received advice from the judge—who finally stopped him, declaring he was only the “umpire,” with the prosecutor his opponent.
On May 9, Victor Jose Trujillo was charged with two misdemeanors of disorderly conduct of prowling and peeking.
Before the court date, Trujillo decided during his arraignment that he would waive his right to counsel. In addition, he pleaded not guilty, waived no time, and was released on his own recognizance.
Trujillo asked what the plea agreement was from Deputy District Attorney Preston Schub, who said that there was an offer for Penal Code section 647 (i), disorderly conduct/prowling, for one year of probation and a stay-away order from the main victim. If the defendant would agree to the offer, Count 2 of 647 (i) would be dismissed.
Judge Rosenberg asked if he would like to accept the offer. Trujillo replied by saying no.
The judge proceeded by asking the defendant if he had a counteroffer—the defendant replied that his plea is not guilty.
Judge Rosenberg asked for clarification: “Are you asking the People just to dismiss the case? Trujillo acknowledged that. DDA Schub showed no interest in dropping the charges against the defendant.
Judge Rosenberg asked the defendant if he would like a jury trial or if he wants a court trial with the judge only. The judge proceeded by explaining to the defendant the differences between a jury trial and a court trial. Judge Rosenberg advised the defendant of the difficulties of selecting a jury.
Trujillo said, “It doesn’t matter to me as long as I can testify, or the other party can testify or bring witnesses.”
Judge Rosenberg replied that it will be the same, although he does not have to testify under the law.
Trujillo decided to waive a jury trial and proceeded to have a court trial, but he was having a problem deciding on a trial date. The DDA advised him he could waive time so he could have a trial date in December.
Judge Rosenberg also counseled the in pro per defendant that if he had any witnesses, he needed to subpoena them. Trujillo asked how he would do that.
The judge attempted to explain to the defendant, but finally stopped and said, “Again I can’t advise you, sir, I am the court. I have to call the balls and strikes, and you’re asking the umpire to advise you; I can’t do that.”
Judge Rosenberg ended the hearing, and set the trial for Dec. 4, in Yolo Dept. 14 at 9 a.m.
Julian Navarro is a senior at Sacramento State majoring in Criminal Justice. He is from Half Moon Bay, California.
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