By Derrick Pal
FRESNO, CA — A judge here in Fresno County Superior Court tried over and over and over again to suggest a visibly agitated defendant not represent himself in court—the defendant/erstwhile “lawyer” eventually caved in and accepted a free county-provided lawyer.
Defendant Domingo Ramos is charged with two counts of resisting a peace officer, one count of deterring an officer by threat or violence, and one count of trespassing and refusing to leave private property.
Judge William Terrence began the hearing, stating, “Mr. Ramos, sir, good morning. Sir, you have the right to be represented by an attorney in two of these misdemeanor cases, do you understand that sir?” which the defendant confirmed.
“And sir, why is it that you do not want the court to appoint an attorney for you?”
“It’s not necessary, I don’t think it’s necessary,” stated defendant Ramos.
Judge Terrence asked, “Do you understand that in each of these cases, you face up to one year in custody at the Fresno County Jail?”
“I understand, but I’m not going to let them get away with it,” said defendant Ramos. “They’ve gone to my house, and they’ve shot me with a taser. They’ve gone to my house to try and arrest me, and I’m not going to let it happen.”
“Well sir, no one is asking you to ‘let it happen,’” replied Judge Terrence. “The issue today is that the court makes sure that you understand that you have the right to have an attorney represent you in this case and that an attorney is available to represent you free of charge.”
“No, I won’t accept it,” stated defendant Ramos. “I don’t have any cases…why use an attorney?”
Judge Terrence explained, “Everything that you and I discuss today is being recorded, and before I can allow you to act as your own attorney, I have to make sure that you understand your rights…by acting as your own attorney, you will be at a significant disadvantage as you will be going against an experienced criminal attorney.”
Judge Terrence asked the defendant about his highest level of education, and the defendant stated he completed up to sixth grade in elementary school.
“And do you understand, sir, that you’ll be going against a criminal prosecutor who has completed both college and law school prior to passing the bar exam?” asked Judge Terrence, and defendant Ramos confirmed he understood.
“And sir, as far as the English language is concerned, do you speak any English sir…do you read English?” to which defendant Ramos replied, “Not much.”
“Well, Mr. Ramos, each report in this case that has been prepared is prepared in the English language, and you’re telling me that you don’t read English very well, is that correct?” asked Judge Terrence.
“And do you understand sir, that you would need to make arrangements by way of perhaps requesting an investigator that is both fluent in English and Spanish so they could help you understand what’s in the reports while you prepare for trial?”
“I don’t want to,” insisted defendant Ramos, holding his position.
“Mr. Ramos, how do you expect to understand what the reports say in this case if you won’t have a Spanish-speaking investigator help you go through those reports?” asked Judge Terrence.
“I don’t need reports, I just want them to leave me alone,” stated defendant Ramos.
Judge Terrence explained, “The reason you are here today sir, is because (it’s) alleged that you have committed crimes. One of those allegations is that you committed crimes on Jan. 25 of 2021, and the other complaint alleges that you committed crimes on April 28 of 2021.
“So we’re not here as far as to address the issue of your interaction with law enforcement in the future; however, you are here to answer to the allegations that you have committed crimes on Jan. 25 and April 28… how will you prepare for trial in this case if you refuse help from an attorney and you refuse help from a Spanish-speaking investigator to help you read the reports in this case?” asked Judge Terrence.
Defendant Ramos responded that he does not wish to receive help for anything.
When Judge Terrence tried to confirm if the defendant understood the information signed on the papers provided to the court, defendant Ramos raised his voice, stating “Yes, everything, yes.”
Judge Terrence tried to ask again, “And Mr. Ramos, do you understand that you will be at a distinct disadvantage…” but he was cut off by Ramos who loudly said, “Yes, I understand. You repeated it already two times, OK?”
“Yes, Mr. Ramos, I understand what I’m saying to you because this court is very concerned that you do not understand all the issues that are at work in your cases. Additionally, sir, I can see that you are becoming agitated, I’ve seen you throw papers now in front of you…” the judge said.
“I’ll pick it up,” stated defendant Ramos.
“No, no, sir, it’s not about you picking it up or not. The issue is as to whether or not you understand the nature of the proceedings against you, and sir it’s very important to me that you understand that an attorney can be appointed to represent you from the Public Defender’s office…they have very good attorneys at the Public Defender’s office who are experienced in criminal law” stated Judge Terrence.
Defendant Ramos went silent for a while, finally stating, “I don’t feel good to answer…too many questions, and you don’t make any decisions.”
Judge Terrence thought silently for a while, clearly concerned about how to proceed.
Judge Terrence stated, “In light of the current status of Mr. Ramos and the conversation I am having with him, as well as his apparent agitation with the questions of the court, this court again is trying to make sure the defendant can appropriately represent himself.”
After a break, defendant Ramos gave in.
“Are you asking that this court appoint the Public Defender’s office to assist you in this matter?” asked Judge Terrence, which the defendant confirmed.
Upon hearing this, Judge Terrence, now satisfied, said, “Thank you, the Public Defender’s office is appointed. We’ll trail the matter to allow Mr. Ramos the chance to speak to his attorney.”
No further hearing dates have been set at this time.
Derrick Pal is a fourth-year student at Sacramento State majoring in Criminal Justice and pursuing a minor in Sociology. He is from Elk Grove, California.
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