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People v. Hill

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Second Division

September 11, 2013

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
RICHARD CLINTON HILL, Defendant and Appellant.

CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION[*]

APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County, No. RIC10009408 James T. Warren[*] and Jean P. Leonard, Judges. Reversed with directions.

Chris Truax, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney General, A. Natasha Cortina and Ronald A. Jakob, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

McKINSTER J.

Defendant Richard Clinton Hill appeals an order civilly committing him to a state hospital under the Sexually Violent Predator Act. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6600 et seq. (the SVPA).)[1] He contends that he had a constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel and that the trial court violated that right by refusing to consider his Marsden[2] motion to replace his court-appointed attorney. He also contends that his right to a fair trial was violated by the trial judge’s “multi-tasking” during the trial and that the indefinite commitments provided for in SVPA proceedings violate equal protection principles.

We reject the latter two contentions. However, we agree that defendant was entitled to a Marsden hearing and that the trial court’s failure to conduct a Marsden hearing was prejudicial error.

BACKGROUND

Defendant does not challenge the jury’s finding that he meets the statutory definition of a sexually violent predator. Accordingly, we need not discuss the underlying offenses or the expert testimony supporting the jury’s findings. For our purposes, it suffices to say that the district attorney filed a petition for commitment under the SVPA and that a jury found the allegations of the petition true. On October 24, 2011, the court ordered defendant committed to Coalinga State Hospital. On that same date, defendant filed his notice of appeal.

DISCUSSION

I.

THE TRIAL COURT’S REFUSAL TO HEAR DEFENDANT’S MARSDEN MOTION REQUIRES REVERSAL

1. Introduction and Summary of the Issue.

Defendant was represented by a court-appointed attorney in the SVPA proceedings. Before trial commenced, defendant filed a written motion seeking a Marsden hearing to ask for the appointment of substitute counsel. In his written motion, he stated that he was dissatisfied with his current attorney for various reasons, including counsel’s failure to communicate and confer with him, except briefly; counsel’s failure to subpoena witnesses defendant considered necessary to his defense; counsel’s failure to investigate and obtain evidence crucial to the defense; counsel’s failure to secure expert witnesses; and ...


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