Defendant Finally Gives Up, and Accepts Free Lawyer – Threatened to Represent Himself Despite Judge’s Warnings

By Natasha Feuerstein

FRESNO, CA – Defendant Juan Carlos Valdez refused representation from Assistant Public Defender Marco Aguilar, citing repeated confusion and distrust of the legal process unfolding in the courtroom here in Fresno County Superior Court Monday morning.

Judge Monica Diaz repeatedly advised Valdez that he had the right to hire an attorney, or he would be given access to a public defender at no cost should he be unable to afford one.

However, Valdez finally relented Monday and accepted representation, and his trial is set for this week.

But it was a long road to get Valdez a free attorney—despite the presence of Aguilar in the courtroom, Valdez initially refused representation, instead opting to represent himself, noting, “I just want to do what’s best for me.”

Judge Diaz reiterated what it means to represent oneself in the courtroom, explaining the “danger” Valdez faces if he is unfamiliar with the legal process.

With the defendant still determined to represent himself, Judge Diaz began to inform Valdez of his rights to a speedy trial, though she was shortly interrupted by a confused Valdez.

“You have the right to a speedy trial,” Judge Diaz repeated. “Do you understand this?”

After some hesitation, Valdez said, “Yes, I want a speedy trial.”

Judge Diaz continued to inform Valdez of his rights, but it was not long before Valdez attempted to interrupt her with another inquiry.

“I cannot give you advice, Mr. Valdez,” Judge Diaz explained. Since Valdez had chosen to represent himself, no one in the court could offer him any advice—not Judge Diaz, and not PD Aguilar.

Again, Judge Diaz asked Valdez if he wanted to continue representing himself.

Valdez, visibly agitated, explained how he felt the “odds are stacked against him” and that he was “very scared.” He faces three misdemeanors—criminal contempt of court, vandalism, and resisting a peace officer

“Well, you should be,” Judge Diaz said, and she once again explained that electing to represent oneself means that no one else in the courtroom can advise and help him, and that it is a dangerous situation to be in if unaware of what any legal proceedings mean.

Valdez seemed to be on a different page than Judge Diaz, as he continued to express his concern with the course of the current proceedings and how he feels antagonized by the court.

“It is not my intention to make you feel this way,” Judge Diaz explained, noting she only wanted Valdez to be aware of how his decision to represent himself might not be to his benefit.

Judge Diaz again pointed out that PD Aguilar was in court if Valdez chose to seek representation from him instead.

Valdez repeated his previous concerns, explaining that he only wants to do what is best for himself, and said he did not understand why Judge Diaz will not simply help him clarify topics when he does not understand what she is saying.

“I am only human,” Valdez continued, arguing that only a little clarification was all he sought.

Judge Diaz assured Valdez that PD Aguilar, to her knowledge, is a very capable lawyer and that he could help Valdez if he allowed it. Judge Diaz then asked Valdez for a final time if he still wished to continue representing himself.

After some fumbling, Valdez asserted that he no longer wished to represent himself, given his discomfort with how the legal proceedings were evolving thus far.

The court appointed counsel, and the trial for Valdez is pending.

Natasha Feuerstein is a senior at UC Davis majoring in Political Science and minoring in Global Disease Biology. She is originally from Camden, Delaware.

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