PEOPLE v. FIELDS

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Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 1, California.

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Clinton FIELDS, Defendant and Appellant.

No. D028149.

Decided: July 20, 1998

Lynne G. McGinnis, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant. Daniel E. Lungren, Attorney General, George Williamson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gary W. Schons, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Pamela A. Ratner and Melissa A. Mandel, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Clinton Fields appeals his convictions of assault with a firearm involving the personal use of a firearm (Pen.Code,1 §§ 245, subd. (a)(2), 12022.5, subd. (a)(1)), discharge of a gun in a grossly negligent manner (§ 246.3), possession of a firearm by a felon (§ 12021, subd. (a)), carrying a concealed firearm on his person (§ 12025, subd. (a)(2)), and carrying a loaded firearm on his person (§ 12031, subd. (a)(1)).2  On appeal, Fields contends his convictions must be reversed because his waiver of a jury trial was not knowingly and intelligently made.   We agree and reverse.

FACTS

The underlying facts are not pertinent to this appeal.   What is pertinent are the facts surrounding Fields's purported waiver of his right to a jury trial.

After a discussion about a plea bargain offered to Fields which he indicated he would be rejecting, defense counsel informed the court that Fields wished to waive his right to a jury.   The following exchange then occurred:

“[DEFENSE COUNSEL]:  Okay. And then the next issue is I've advised you of your constitutional right to a jury, correct?

“[FIELDS]:  That's right.

“[DEFENSE COUNSEL]:  And you had a jury trial last summer with Marie Alex.

“[FIELDS]:  Right.

“[DEFENSE COUNSEL]:  So you're familiar with what a jury trial is?

“[FIELDS]:  Right.

“[DEFENSE COUNSEL]:  And this time you don't want a jury trial;  you want Judge Murphy to be the judge.   Is that right?

“[FIELDS]:  That's the only way I think I can keep my appeal open.   Yes, that's right.

“[DEFENSE COUNSEL]:  I have advised you repeatedly that I think it's better for you in this case to have a jury instead of a judge;  is that right?

“[FIELDS]:  Yeah. You advised me both of them would be 95 percent against me, yeah.   Yes, you did.   You did that.

“[DEFENSE COUNSEL]:  No, no.   I said that the likelihood of conviction is probably 95 percent whether it was a judge or a jury.

“[FIELDS]:  Exactly.

“[DEFENSE COUNSEL]:  So you don't want to follow that advice.   You want to have a judge and not a jury?

“[FIELDS]:  Yes. I need my-my-my appeal.

“․

“THE COURT:  Okay. Are the people satisfied with the ․ defendant's jury waiver?

“[PROSECUTOR]:  Yes. The only thing he mentioned that worries me is that he says, ‘I want to keep that open on an appeal.’   And what I need to make sure, that you understand, Mr. Fields, is by not having a jury-or strike that.   That you do have a right to have a jury like you did have last summer.

“[FIELDS]:  Yes.

“[PROSECUTOR]:  And by giving up that right, there's going to be no one sitting up there;  that it's Judge Murphy making the decision whether or not you're guilty of these charges.

“[FIELDS]:  Yes. After all the evidence is produced.

“[PROSECUTOR]:  Correct.

“[FIELDS]:  I understand.

“․

“THE COURT:  ․ For the record, Mr. Begovich [defense counsel], I'm accepting the defendant's jury waiver at this point.”

The court also obtained a jury waiver from the prosecutor.

There was evidence presented at trial indicating Fields has been diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and manic-depressive illness, has been hospitalized on a number of occasions and was not taking any medication at the time of the offenses.

DISCUSSION

A defendant charged with a crime has a constitutional right to a trial by jury.  (People v. Ernst (1994) 8 Cal.4th 441, 444-445, 34 Cal.Rptr.2d 238, 881 P.2d 298.)   Under the California Constitution the defendant and the prosecution may waive their right to a jury and elect a court trial.  (Cal. Const., art.   I, § 16 [“A jury may be waived in a criminal cause by the consent of both parties expressed in open court by the defendant and the defendant's counsel”];  People v. Vera (1997) 15 Cal.4th 269, 277, 62 Cal.Rptr.2d 754, 934 P.2d 1279.)  “ ‘The judge does not have to give his consent to a nonjury trial, nor can he [or she] overrule the consent of the defendant and prosecutor.’ ”  (People v. Scott (1997) 15 Cal.4th 1188, 1209, 65 Cal.Rptr.2d 240, 939 P.2d 354.)  “ ‘For an effective waiver of a fundamental constitutional right [including the right to a jury trial], “an express, knowing and intelligent waiver” must appear in the record.’ ”  (In re Kevin G. (1985) 40 Cal.3d 644, 648, 221 Cal.Rptr. 146, 709 P.2d 1315.)   Failure to obtain an effective waiver requires reversal.  (People v. Ernst, supra, at p. 449, 34 Cal.Rptr.2d 238, 881 P.2d 298.)

 “In determining whether there has been an effective waiver of a jury trial in favor of a court trial, the cases do not require a specific formula or extensive questioning beyond assuring that the waiver is personal, voluntary and intelligent.”  (People v. Castaneda (1975) 52 Cal.App.3d 334, 344, 125 Cal.Rptr. 9.)   In accepting the waiver of the right to a jury trial, the trial court does not have a duty to sua sponte tell a defendant who is represented by competent counsel about “ ‘all the ins and outs' of a jury trial” (People v. Wrest (1992) 3 Cal.4th 1088, 1105, 13 Cal.Rptr.2d 511, 839 P.2d 1020;  People v. Lookadoo (1967) 66 Cal.2d 307, 311, 57 Cal.Rptr. 608, 425 P.2d 208 3 );  the relative advantages or disadvantages of the different types of trials (People v. Castaneda, supra, at p. 344, 125 Cal.Rptr. 9;  People v. Acosta (1971) 18 Cal.App.3d 895, 902, 96 Cal.Rptr. 234 4 );  or that a jury trial requires a unanimous verdict (People v. Tijerina (1969) 1 Cal.3d 41, 45-46, 81 Cal.Rptr. 264, 459 P.2d 680).   The trial court does not have a duty to inquire into the defendant's reasons for a jury trial waiver when the defendant, represented by competent counsel, appears to make an intelligent, knowing and voluntary waiver of his right to a jury trial on the record, and indicates he has no questions or need to discuss the matter with counsel.  (People v. Diaz (1992) 3 Cal.4th 495, 571, 11 Cal.Rptr.2d 353, 834 P.2d 1171;  People v. Robertson (1989) 48 Cal.3d 18, 36-38, 255 Cal.Rptr. 631, 767 P.2d 1109.)   The appellate court will not reverse a jury trial waiver which otherwise appears voluntary, knowing and intelligent (i.e., where a defendant represented by counsel has indicated he understands his right to a jury trial and wishes to waive it) based on the defendant's later expressed assertion he did not fully understand some aspect or tactical advantage of a jury trial.  (See, e.g., People v. Diaz, supra, at pp. 570-571, 11 Cal.Rptr.2d 353, 834 P.2d 1171.)

On the other hand, the courts have indicated a trial judge does have a sua sponte duty to conduct a further inquiry to ensure a waiver is knowingly and intelligently made “ ‘if in questioning the defendant and his attorney the trial court has reason to believe the defendant does not fully comprehend his rights.’ ”  (People v. Panizzon (1996) 13 Cal.4th 68, 83, 51 Cal.Rptr.2d 851, 913 P.2d 1061 [addressing the validity of a waiver of the right to appeal];  People v. Castrillon (1991) 227 Cal.App.3d 718, 722, 278 Cal.Rptr. 121.)

 The Attorney General argues since the reason why a defendant waives his right to a jury is irrelevant, the fact that Fields waived his jury trial right based on the mistaken belief that a waiver was necessary to perfecting an appeal did not negate the validity of the waiver.   The Attorney General, however, is relying on cases where at the time the court took the defendant's waiver there was no indication that the defendant did not understand his jury trial right, i.e., where the waiver appeared to be voluntary, intelligent and knowing.   In those cases, the defendant only later raised an argument that he was not informed of some aspect of a jury trial which might have influenced his waiver decision.   The appellate courts affirmed the validity of the waiver in reliance on the general proposition that the trial court did not have a sua sponte duty to inform the defendant of “ ‘all the ins and outs' of a jury trial” and the fact the record did not indicate the defendant who was represented by competent counsel had any confusion about the jury trial right.  (People v. Wrest, supra, 3 Cal.4th at p. 1105, 13 Cal.Rptr.2d 511, 839 P.2d 1020;  People v. Castaneda, supra, 52 Cal.App.3d at p. 344, 125 Cal.Rptr. 9.)

In contrast to those cases, here we have a defendant who was obviously confused about his jury trial right.   While the record is clear Fields understood the difference between a jury trial and a court trial in that he understood it would be the judge rather than the jury making the decision based on the evidence, the record also expressly shows Fields mistakenly believed his appeal rights were dependent on having a court trial.   It should have been apparent to all parties that Fields thus did not fully comprehend his jury trial right.   Indeed, the prosecutor expressed concern about the validity of the waiver because of Fields's mistaken belief a court trial was necessary to retain his appeal rights and began to inquire on this matter but failed to follow through.   Given Fields's evident confusion, further inquiry should have been conducted to ensure Fields's waiver was knowingly and intelligently made.   No one, however, disabused Fields of his mistaken belief.

Under these circumstances, where the record affirmatively shows Fields did not fully comprehend the jury trial right, we cannot say Fields knowingly and intelligently waived his right to a jury.   Accordingly, we reverse his convictions.

DISPOSITION

The judgment is reversed.

FOOTNOTES

FN1. All statutory references are to the Penal Code unless otherwise specified..  FN1. All statutory references are to the Penal Code unless otherwise specified.

2.   Fields was found not guilty of receiving stolen property (§ 496, subd. (a)).

3.   The court in People v. Lookadoo, supra, 66 Cal.2d at page 311, 57 Cal.Rptr. 608, 425 P.2d 208 noted, “[T]he trial court in a criminal case is not required to explain to a defendant the nature and consequences of his action in waiving a jury trial where he is, as in the case at bar, represented by counsel and fails to show that either he or his counsel has been misled as to the result which might occur from his waiving a jury trial․”

4.   As the court noted in People v. Acosta, supra, 18 Cal.App.3d at page 902, 96 Cal.Rptr. 234, “Experienced attorneys differ as to the advantages and disadvantages of trial by jury in certain criminal cases.   For instance, the personality of the trial judge may be a persuasive factor.   Certainly a court is in no position to discuss the merits of the two kinds of trial, either philosophically or tactically, with a defendant where the defendant is represented by competent counsel.”

KREMER, Presiding Justice.

NARES and HOWATT,* JJ., concur.

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