Defendant Announces He’s Representing Self Just Before Preliminary Hearing

By Stacie Guevara

SACRAMENTO, CA – Cordell Jones was charged with domestic violence, inflicting corporal injury to a spouse resulting in traumatic condition before Judge Augustin R. Jimenez in Sacramento County Superior Court Dept. 36 Monday.

The preliminary hearing was supposed to take place Monday morning, but it never did because Jones requested to represent himself, or appear in “pro per.”

Jones appeared in court with his defense attorney, Mirayla Freshwater, and before the proceeding began, Freshwater told Judge Jimenez that Jones wanted to represent himself.

There was a long pause as Judge Jimenez looked at Jones before he honored his request. He asked Jones a few questions, confirming that he wanted to represent himself, even though it was his constitutional right to have a lawyer represent him.

Jones assured that this was what he wanted, and Judge Jimenez explained later that it is generally not deemed a wise choice for someone to represent themselves in facing criminal charges. Freshwater later said that Jones’ decision to go pro per was done against her advice.

At that time, Judge Jimenez decided to take a 10-minute recess to gather some additional information, since Freshwater would no longer be representing Jones.

Jones’ offenses were from events that took place on May 27 of this year, but his past charges also included the prior convictions of both corporal injury to a spouse and battery with a serious bodily injury from Feb. 25, 2015 and assault with a deadly weapon from Aug. 25, 2000.

Deputy District Attorney Mitch Miller noted some additional prior convictions alleged in the complaint relative to the Feb. 25, 2015 incident. Miller explained that the pages of the complaint were improperly numbered, which didn’t help things go smoothly.

Judge Jimenez went through the prior convictions, telling Jones he was being asked not to admit anything, but to indicate his understanding that the people were alleging these prior convictions.

Judge Jimenez said those prior convictions, as alleged by the DDA, made Jones eligible for three strikes life sentence, to which Miller interrupted him. Miller said Jones was actually not eligible for a life sentence, but that his maximum exposure was 10 years.

Judge Jimenez asked Jones if he could describe for the court what, if any, legal training or experience he could speak to.

Jones said he had represented himself in some of his other cases and that he has been studying law for at least 18 years, intending to go to law school.

Judge Jimenez seemed satisfied with Jones’ answer, saying, “Thank you for that candid response, sir.”

Jones was then given a document to sign, recording the fact that he represented himself. Freshwater then reviewed a file, going through several pages, and compiled documents that were provided to Jones as discovery, or the evidence that would be presented before the trial began.

Jones said he’d like to bring people in as witnesses as a part of his hearing. Jones was then instructed to write out a list of names and phone numbers of the people he wanted to bring in as witnesses.

Judge Jimenez said Jones could bring in two witnesses later that day.

Judge Jimenez said Freshwater would be present in court during Jones’ trial, in the event that there is some technical issue that comes up and she could perhaps provide Jones some guidance. He assured that she would not be there in court for purposes of discharging her responsibilities, under the code of ethics of the State of California in representing him as a defendant.

When Miller asked if there would be a continuance of this case, Jones, seeming agitated, said he didn’t want a further continuance. He said he wanted it done that day.

Unfortunately for Jones, it was unable to be finished that morning because the hearing continued into the afternoon session, stopping at noon and resuming at 1:30 p.m.

About The Author

Stacie Guevara (she/her) is a fourth-year at UC Davis majoring in Communication and minoring in Professional Writing. She is from the San Francisco Bay Area and is interested in going into journalism.

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