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The People v. Tracy Deann Salter

October 26, 2012

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
TRACY DEANN SALTER, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County. Thomas N. Douglass, Judge. (Retired judge of the Riverside Super. Ct. assigned by the Chief Justice pursuant to art. VI, § 6 of the Cal. Const.) (Super.Ct.No. INF10002935)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Codrington J.

CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION*fn1

OPINION

Affirmed.

I INTRODUCTION

Defendant Tracy Salter struck and killed a bicyclist with her car and fled the scene. She was charged with hit and run causing death (Veh. Code, § 20001, subd. (a); count 1) and vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence (Pen. Code, § 192, subd. (c)(2)*fn2 ; count 2). Defendant pled not guilty to the charges. During pretrial proceedings, defense counsel expressed a doubt as to defendant's competency. The trial court ordered defendant evaluated, held a competency hearing, and determined defendant incompetent to stand trial. Defendant appeals from the trial court's orders suspending criminal proceedings and committing her to a mental institution for up to three years.

Defendant contends she was denied her due process rights by depriving her of the opportunity to be heard on her competence. Specifically, the trial court erred in not appointing a second attorney to represent her interest in not being committed to a mental institution, and by depriving her of the opportunity to confront and cross-examine witnesses. We reject defendant's contentions. Defendant's due process and confrontation rights were not violated. The trial court was not required sua sponte to appoint a second attorney to advocate defendant's conflicting interest in establishing her competency. We affirm the judgment.

II FACTS*fn3

On December 14, 2010, defendant struck a bicyclist riding in the bike lane as defendant was driving about 40 miles per hour, on Avenue 54, in La Quinta. The bicyclist flew into the air. Without stopping, defendant sped away, leaving the bicyclist to die at the scene. A witness reported the incident. An officer pulled over defendant. Defendant, who was deaf, handed the officer a note stating that a man had pushed another man into her car. The note further stated, "I'm looking for you. I'm finding the police station." "I'm scared of the man, pushed the man."

III PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

During the pretrial proceedings, defense counsel moved for a mental health evaluation of defendant (Evid. Code, § 1017). The trial court granted the motion and appointed Dr. William Jones to examine defendant. Based on Dr. Jones's mental health evaluation and defense counsel's conversations with defendant, defense counsel doubted defendant's mental competence and therefore moved to suspend the criminal proceedings (Pen. Code, § 1368). The trial court appointed Dr. Robert Suiter to evaluate defendant's mental competence. The prosecution moved for a second evaluation of defendant's mental competence. The trial court granted the motion and appointed Dr. Craig Rath to evaluate defendant. Doctors Suiter and Rath both submitted reports concluding that defendant was not competent to stand trial.

During a hearing on defendant's competency on July 6, 2011, the trial court stated that defense counsel could argue defendant was mentally incompetent and waive defendant's trial rights, even over her objection. Defense counsel noted defendant wanted a hearing on the matter but defense counsel waived her trial rights. Defense counsel and the prosecutor stipulated to submit the matter on the two doctors' reports. The trial court reviewed the reports and found defendant mentally incompetent to stand trial under section 1368. The trial court ordered the criminal proceedings suspended and referred defendant to County Mental Health for a placement recommendation. On July 28, 2011, the trial court ordered defendant committed to Patton State Hospital for up to three years. The court also authorized involuntary administering of prescribed antipsychotic medication to defendant.

Defendant filed a notice of appeal of the order for commitment and mental incompetence entered on July 28, ...


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