California Court of Appeals, Second District, Fourth Division
from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County
Super. Ct. No. TA137412, John Cheroske and Kelvin D. Filer,
Theresa Osterman Stevenson, under appointment by the Court of
Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.
D. Harris, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief
Assistant Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Assistant
Attorney General, Zee Rodriguez and Corey J. Robins, Deputy
Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.
information, appellant Elijah Joe Ruffin was charged with
corporal injury to a cohabitant (Pen. Code, § 273.5,
subd. (a)) and assault by means of force likely
to produce great bodily injury (§ 245, subd. (a)(4)),
based on a single alleged assault on Katisha E. It was also
alleged that he had suffered two prior strike convictions
(§§ 667, subd. (d), 1170.12, subd. (b)) and had
served two prior prison terms (§ 667.5, subd.
master calendar court, on the date set for trial, appellant
exercised his right to represent himself under Faretta v.
California (1975) 422 U.S. 806, after the court
indicated it would find good cause to continue the trial
because appellant's appointed counsel was engaged in
another trial. Before the court granted the Faretta
request, appellant initialed and signed a written
Faretta advisement form. Thereafter, appellant
represented himself at trial before a different judge, and a
jury convicted him of both counts. The trial court found the
strike and prior prison term allegations true, struck one
strike at sentencing, and sentenced appellant to total term
of eight years in state prison.
appeal, appellant contends that the master calendar court
failed to adequately advise him of the dangers and
disadvantages of self-representation. We agree. The
court's inquiry consisted of asking whether appellant
initialed and signed the form (he did) and whether he had any
questions (he did not). The court did not ascertain on the
record that defendant read and understood the written
Faretta form. The court also failed to inquire about
ambiguities in appellant's responses regarding his
understanding of the nature of the charges against him. And
nothing in the record-not the oral proceedings or the written
Faretta form-advised defendant of the penal
consequences of conviction-27-years-to-life in state prison.
Considering all these circumstances and reviewing the entire
record de novo, we conclude that appellant's
Faretta waiver was invalid, because the master
calendar court's inquiry about the Faretta form
and the remainder of the record fail to adequately
demonstrate that that appellant understood the dangers and
disadvantages of representing himself consistent with
established case authority. Therefore, we reverse the
E. testified that she began dating appellant in 2015 and
moved into his home in March of that year. On April 2, 2015,
she awoke around 2:00 a.m. when she heard appellant searching
through her purse. Appellant accused Katisha E. of being a
prostitute, and struck and choked her, resulting in swelling
and redness to her right eye, bruising to her left eye, and
bruises and a large bump to her right shoulder. Katisha E.
moved to her stepmother's house that night but did not
report the incident to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's
Department until April 5, 2015.
September 30, 2015, the last day for trial, appellant's
assigned alternate public defender was engaged in trial in
another case. In the master calendar department, a substitute
alternate public defender asked the court to continue the
case until October 6, when appellant's assigned attorney
would be finished with the other trial. The court asked
appellant, “You give up your right to go to trial today
and agree to October 6 or not?” When appellant replied
“no, ” the court stated that it would find good
cause to continue the trial.
alternate public defender then informed the court that
appellant wanted to start the trial and proceed in pro. per.
The court responded, “You are not that stupid. You have
one of the best lawyers in the county.” Appellant
stated, “You can't keep me in jail for allegations.
I have rights. You are unconstitutionally keeping me in
prison. You are violating my rights to a speedy trial.”
The court told appellant, “don't talk to me
anymore. Put him back. Any family here?”
Appellant's father stated that he was present. The court
said, “Maybe you can talk to him. He wants to commit
suicide. He has a good lawyer. He doesn't know how to be
a lawyer. If he wants to, I will let him. If you want to talk
to him, it's up to you. You want to talk to him?”
The father replied, “I can talk to him but he wants a
speedy trial.” The court stated, “Okay. Thanks
for helping me. We will pass this.” The court then took
court provided appellant with a copy of a document later
described by the court as “the pro. per. policy
memorandum of Local Rule 6.41, ” as well as a written
advisement and waiver of right to counsel form. On the waiver
form, appellant checked the boxes advising him of, among
other things, his right to counsel, his right to represent
himself, and a lengthy, detailed list of dangers and
disadvantages of self-representation. In the portion of the
form regarding the charges, appellant checked the box
indicating that he understood he was “charged with the
following crime(s), ” but the space for listing the
charges was left blank. He checked the box stating that he
knew “the crime(s) with which you are charged (is)
(are) (general) (specific) intent crime(s), ” but he
failed to circle either. He also checked boxes indicating
that he knew what facts had to be proved before he could be
found guilty and knew the legal defenses. Nothing in the form
advised him of the penal consequences of conviction. Because
he was eligible for treatment as a third-strike defendant,
with two prior prison terms alleged alleged, he was subject
to a possible sentence of 27 years to life in state
prison. He checked boxes affirming that he
understood the court's recommendation that he not
represent himself and that it remained his wish to represent
himself. Finally, he signed and dated the form, certifying:
“I have read, understood and considered all of the
above warnings included in this petition, and I still want to
represent myself. I freely and voluntarily give up my right
to have a lawyer represent me.”
the court reconvened, the following proceedings occurred:
COURT: Recalling People vs. Ruffin. I have documents by Mr.
Ruffin. You understand you are requesting to go to trial
today and to represent yourself. Is that your wish?
COURT: You had an opportunity to read the documents submitted
to you. Those were the pro. per. policy memorandum of Local
Rule 6.41. Did you read that?
COURT: Did you understand it?
COURT: I am holding a document entitled Advisement of Waiver
of Right to Counsel of 4 pages. On the right-hand side it ...