People v. Chessman, Cr. 5006

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtSCHAUER; GIBSON; CARTER; EDMONDS
Citation38 Cal.2d 166,238 P.2d 1001
PartiesPEOPLE v. CHESSMAN.
Decision Date18 December 1951
Docket NumberCr. 5006

Page 1001

238 P.2d 1001
38 Cal.2d 166
PEOPLE

v.
CHESSMAN.
Cr. 5006.
Supreme Court of California, in Bank.
Dec. 18, 1951.
Rehearing Denied Jan. 15, 1952.

Page 1004

[38 Cal.2d 171] Caryl Chessman, in pro per.

Edmund G. Brown, Atty. Gen., Frank Richards, Deputy Atty. Gen., S. Ernest Roll, Dist. Atty., Los Angeles County, Jere J. Sullivan, Robert Wheeler, and J. Miller Leavy, Deputies Dist. Atty., all of Los Angeles, for respondent.

SCHAUER, Justice.

Defendant appeals from judgments of conviction of 17 felonies, rendered pursuant to jury verdicts, and from an order denying his motion for new trial. For convenience of discussion the crimes are listed in chronological order and numbered. Each paragraph indicates a separate general criminal enterprise, in each of which one or more offenses were committed.

January 3, 1948: (1) First degree robbery of McCullough.

January 13, 1948: (2) Grand theft of an automobile, which was used in perpetrating subsequent crimes and in [38 Cal.2d 172] which defendant was fleeing when he was apprehended.

January 18, 1948: (3) First degree robbery of Bartle.

January 18, 1948: (4) First degree robbery of Ballew.

January 19, 1948: (5) First degree robbery of Lea. (6) First degree robbery of Regina. (7) Kidnaping Regina for the purpose

Page 1005

of robbery, with infliction of bodily harm; punishment fixed at death. (8) Violation of section 288a of the Penal Code, committed against Regina.

January 20, 1948: (9) First degree robbery of Stone.

January 22, 1948: (10) Attempted robbery of Hurburt. (11) Kidnaping Mary for the purpose of robbery, with infliction of bodily harm; punishment fixed at death. (12) Attempted rape of Mary. (13) Violation of section 288a of the Penal Code committed against Mary.

January 23, 1948: (14) First degree robbery of Waisler. (15) First degree robbery of Lesher. (16) Kidnaping Waisler for the purpose of robbery, with infliction of bodily harm; punishment fixed at life imprisonment without possibility of parole. (17) Kidnaping Lesher for the purpose of robbery.

The jury further found that defendant was armed at the time of the commission of each of the crimes except that of grand theft, numbered (2) above; that he was armed at the time of his arrest; and that he had suffered two previous convictions of robbery and one of assault with a deadly weapon. Defendant was acquitted of one count of burglary. We have concluded that no prejudicial error is shown and that the judgments and order should be affirmed.

Sufficiency of Transcript

Defendant argues questions as to the correctness and validity of the reporter's transcript which were finally decided against him by this court in People v. Chessman (1950), 35 Cal.2d 455, 218 P.2d 769, 19 A.L.R.2d 1084. Re-examination of these arguments and of the transcript leaves us convinced that the transcript permits a fair consideration and disposition of the appeal.

Denial of Continuance to Enable Defendant to Obtain Counsel, or to Interview and Subpena Witnesses and Prepare His Case in Propria Persona

Defendant complains that he was forced to go to trial unprepared. The situation on which this claim is based resulted from the fact that he insisted upon representing himself. The informations against defendant (numbered 11793 and [38 Cal.2d 173] 11794) were filed on February 18, 1948. On February 20, 1948, defendant, represented by private counsel Morris Lavine, was arraigned and the causes were continued to February 27. On February 27 amended informations were filed and the causes continued to March 5. On March 5 defendant, represented by private counsel V. L. Ferguson, appeared and was arraigned on amended informations; time to plead was continued to March 9. On March 9 defendant and Mr. Ferguson appeared and Mr. Ferguson was relieved as counsel. Defendant now asserts: 'one of those counsel wanted more money than appellant believed his services were worth and appellant and his father could not agree with the other counsel as to the conduct of the defense, so both were relieved and appellant determined to represent himself.'

On March 12, 1948, defendant appeared without counsel. The public defender was present and announced, 'We have been relieved, your Honor.' Defendant stated that he wished to represent himself. After a colloquy with the court during which defendant repeated his insistence on representing himself, the court said, 'What will probably happen, if we set this case down for trial, you will want a lawyer and then ask for a continuance. If you want to try your own case, there is no way we can tell you not to. You will have to try it or have somebody hired to represent you in plenty of time to try the case at the time it is set.

'The Defendant Chessman: I understand that.

'The Court: Because many times men with past experiences such as you have had you know the tricks of the trade, and they get a lawyer at the very last minute. You really want to try your own case?

'The Defendant Chessman: This is correct.'

Defendant pleaded not guilty; the court set April 26 and 29 as the dates for trial on the respective informations and again explained to defendant that no continuance based on his decision to represent himself

Page 1006

would be granted. 'Sometime during the middle of March' Mr. Al Matthews, deputy public defender, called on defendant at the county jail and offered his services; defendant refused them. On April 26 all charges against defendant were continued to April 29 for trial. On April 29 defendant appeared without counsel, moved for another continuance, and complained that because of his confinement in the county jail he had been unable to obtain law books and interview witnesses. The trial court explained to him that his decision to represent himself did not entitle him to greater privileges than other prisoners; defendant again repeatedly[38 Cal.2d 174] refused the offer of counsel; and a continuance was denied.

Defendant summarizes the trial court's position as follows: 'That the calendar judge in assigning the case for trial had warned the defendant that he must be ready and that he would be allowed no continuance. That the trial court offered to appoint counsel who could have prepared a defense for the defendant. That because the defendant refused the appointment of counsel it was the defendant's own fault that he was not prepared, that he could not consequently complain of his lack of preparation, that the sheriff's regulations (of the privileges accorded prisoners in the county jail) could not be interfered with by the court, and that, therefore, the defendant must go to trial, prepared or not.' This is a fair summary of the court's position; that position appears correct; and defendant cites no authority to the contrary.

Defendant argues that the denial of a continuance deprived him of the right to select counsel of his choice and deprived such counsel of the opportunity to prepare. The answer to this contention is factual and appears from the above summarized history of the proceedings prior to trial. Defendant was entitled to waive assistance of counsel, and it is clear that he did so of his own volition and with full knowledge of what he was doing (Adams v. U.S. ex rel. McCann (1942), 317 U.S. 269, 279, 63 S.Ct. 236, 87 L.Ed. 268; cf. People v. Chesser (1947), 29 Cal.2d 815, 822, 178 P.2d 761).

Furthermore, defendant did not go to trial without the services of an attorney at law. Immediately before the jury were impaneled, defendant announced to the court that he intended to accept the services of Mr. Matthews as legal adviser (not counsel) and throughout the trial Mr. Matthews was present and his legal ability and experience were available to defendant. These circumstances will be material to our disposition of certain contentions of defendant hereinafter discussed, and it will be necessary for us to refer again to the following proposition: A defendant who intelligently refuses counsel and insists upon personally conducting and controlling his defense does not lose the status of prisoner and become entitled to extraordinary privileges not accorded defendants who are represented by counsel, nor does he become entitled to proceed in a manner different from that permitted to attorneys.

38 Cal.2d 175

Consolidation of Counts

Defendant contends that the trial court erred to his prejudice by consolidating for trial the crimes charged in Information 117963 with the crimes charged in Information 117964. This type of objection cannot be urged for the first time on appeal. (People v. Pearson (1940), 41 Cal.App.2d 614, 619, 107 P.2d 463; People v. Johns (1945), 69 Cal.App.2d 737, 740, 160 P.2d 102; People v. Beck (1945), 71 Cal.App.2d 637, 641, 163 P.2d 41.)

Defendant asserts that he objected to the consolidation in the trial court but the record 1 shows that he did not. Originally the case of Information 117963, by which defendant and David Knowles were jointly charged with crimes described in People v. Knowles (1950), 35 Cal.2d 175, 217 P.2d 1 (grand theft of an automobile, above numbered (2), and two robberies and two kidnappings, above numbered (14) through (17)), was set for trial on April 26, 1948; the case of Information 117964, which charged defendant alone with the

Page 1007

remaining crimes of which he has been convicted, was set for trial on April 29. When the first group of charges came on for trial defendant's motions for a trial separate from that of Knowles and a continuance were granted. All charges against defendant came on for trial on April 29. At this time the court ordered the cases against defendant consolidated for trial. Defendant asked 'that these cases be returned to the Master Calendar court for reassignment' and stated at length his reasons for this request, but he did not suggest that the cases should not have been consolidated.

Motion for Change of Venue

Immediately before the jury were impaneled, Mr. Matthews stated to the court that...

To continue reading

Request your trial
208 practice notes
  • People v. Dominguez, No. H022727.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 14, 2004
    ...robbery, "[i]t is the fact, not the distance, of forcible removal which constitutes kidnaping...." (Chessman, supra, 38 Cal.2d at p. 192, 238 P.2d 1001; see Rayford, supra, 9 Cal.4th at pp. 14-15, 36 Cal.Rptr.2d 317, 884 P.2d 1369.) In that case the court upheld a capital sentence based, in......
  • People v. Taylor, B293881
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 6, 2020
    ...changed in the 1950s with the decisions in People v. Knowles (1950) 35 Cal.2d 175, 217 P.2d 1 ( Knowles ) and People v. Chessman (1951) 38 Cal.2d 166, 238 P.2d 1001 ( Chessman ).The 1950 Knowles decision anticipated Chessman , and involved Caryl Chessman’s confederate. Knowles and Chessman ......
  • People v. Allen, No. A072610
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 11, 1997
    ...California cases to show how far this had gone. "Thus, forcing a person from one parked car to another [citing People v. Chessman (1951) 38 Cal.2d 166, 238 P.2d 1001, cert. den. 343 U.S. 915, 72 S.Ct. 650, 96 L.Ed. 1330] or merely requiring the victim to leave his home [citing People v. Phi......
  • People v. Arias, No. B223330.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 13, 2011
    ...“It is the fact, not the distance, of forcible removal which constitutes kidnapping in this state.” ( People v. Chessman (1951) 38 Cal.2d 166, 192, 238 P.2d 1001.) That rule of law was abrogated in People v. Daniels (1969) 71 Cal.2d 1119, 80 Cal.Rptr. 897, 459 P.2d 225 (hereafter Daniels ),......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
207 cases
  • People v. Dominguez, No. H022727.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 14, 2004
    ...robbery, "[i]t is the fact, not the distance, of forcible removal which constitutes kidnaping...." (Chessman, supra, 38 Cal.2d at p. 192, 238 P.2d 1001; see Rayford, supra, 9 Cal.4th at pp. 14-15, 36 Cal.Rptr.2d 317, 884 P.2d 1369.) In that case the court upheld a capital sentence based, in......
  • People v. Taylor, B293881
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 6, 2020
    ...changed in the 1950s with the decisions in People v. Knowles (1950) 35 Cal.2d 175, 217 P.2d 1 ( Knowles ) and People v. Chessman (1951) 38 Cal.2d 166, 238 P.2d 1001 ( Chessman ).The 1950 Knowles decision anticipated Chessman , and involved Caryl Chessman’s confederate. Knowles and Chessman ......
  • People v. Allen, No. A072610
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 11, 1997
    ...California cases to show how far this had gone. "Thus, forcing a person from one parked car to another [citing People v. Chessman (1951) 38 Cal.2d 166, 238 P.2d 1001, cert. den. 343 U.S. 915, 72 S.Ct. 650, 96 L.Ed. 1330] or merely requiring the victim to leave his home [citing People v. Phi......
  • People v. Arias, No. B223330.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 13, 2011
    ...“It is the fact, not the distance, of forcible removal which constitutes kidnapping in this state.” ( People v. Chessman (1951) 38 Cal.2d 166, 192, 238 P.2d 1001.) That rule of law was abrogated in People v. Daniels (1969) 71 Cal.2d 1119, 80 Cal.Rptr. 897, 459 P.2d 225 (hereafter Daniels ),......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Offenses of Violence Against the Person
    • United States
    • ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, The Nbr. 339-1, January 1962
    • January 1, 1962
    ...31 moval of a person &dquo;from his place of N.E.2d 993 (1941) (2 hours). residence or business, or a substantial 39 People v. Chessman, 38 Cal. 2d 166, 238 distance from the P.2d 1001 (1951) ; accord, Cox v. State, 203 vicinity where he is Ind. 544, 177 N.E. 898 (1931) (90 feet). found,&dq......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT