People v. Johnson

Decision Date29 February 1980
Docket NumberCr. 20710
Citation606 P.2d 738,162 Cal.Rptr. 431,26 Cal.3d 557
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 606 P.2d 738, 16 A.L.R.4th 1255 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Raymond E. JOHNSON, Defendant and Appellant.

James R. Goff, Santa Ana, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for defendant and appellant.

Wilbur F. Littlefield, Public Defender, Los Angeles, Dennis A. Fischer and H. Reed Webb, Deputy Public Defenders, as amici curiae on behalf of defendant and appellant.

Evelle J. Younger, George Deukmejian, Attys. Gen., Jack R. Winkler, Robert H. Philibosian, Chief Asst. Attys. Gen., S. Clark Moore, Asst. Atty. Gen., Shunji Asari

and Mark Alan Hart, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

TOBRINER, Justice.

On July 12, 1977, defendant Johnson was convicted of three counts of robbery (Pen.Code, § 211). 1 On this appeal, he contends that his conviction should be reversed on the grounds, among others, that he was denied his right to a speedy trial and that substantial evidence does not support the judgment.

Section 1382, which interprets the state constitutional right to a speedy trial (see Cal.Const., art. I, § 15), provides that absent a showing of good cause, a defendant accused of a felony is entitled to a dismissal of the charges against him if he is not brought to trial within 60 days of the filing of the information. Defendant Johnson was not brought to trial within this statutory period. Instead, the trial court, at the request of the public defender, and over defendant's express objection, repeatedly continued the case, with the result that trial commenced 144 days after the filing of charges. Defendant raised his speedy trial claim in the trial court, but did not seek pretrial appellate intervention.

We summarize briefly our conclusions respecting the speedy trial issue. We conclude, first, that when a client expressly objects to waiver of his right to a speedy trial under section 1382, counsel may not waive that right to resolve a calendar conflict when counsel acts not for the benefit of the client before the court but to accommodate counsel's other clients. Secondly, we conclude that, at least in the case of an incarcerated defendant, the asserted inability of the public defender to try such a defendant's case within the statutory period because of conflicting obligations to other clients does not constitute good cause to avoid dismissal of the charges. Finally, we reaffirm the holding of People v. Wilson (1963) 60 Cal.2d 139, 32 Cal.Rptr. 44, 383 P.2d 452, that a defendant seeking post-conviction review of denial of a speedy trial must prove prejudice flowing from the delay of trial; we affirm here because defendant proved no prejudice.

In discussing defendant's contention that substantial evidence does not support his conviction, we take the opportunity to review and define the California standard for review of this contention in light of the recent United States Supreme Court decision in Jackson v. Virginia (1979) 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560. We explain that whenever the evidentiary support for a conviction faces a challenge on appeal, the court must review the whole record in the light most favorable to the judgment below to determine whether it discloses substantial evidence such that a reasonable trier of fact could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Applying this test to the present case, we conclude that substantial evidence does support the conviction.

1. The trial court's failure to bring defendant to trial within 60 days from the filing of the information does not constitute reversible error.

Independently of the parallel federal constitutional provision (U.S. Const., 6th Amend.) the California Constitution in article I, section 15 guarantees a criminal defendant's right "to a speedy public trial." The Legislature has separately established, among the basic rights of a defendant in a criminal action, the defendant's entitlement "To a speedy and public trial." ( § 686, subd. 1.) As the Legislature has made clear, "The welfare of the people of the State of California requires that all proceedings in criminal cases shall be set for trial and heard and determined at the earliest possible time . . . . It is therefore recognized that both the people and the defendant have the right to an expeditious disposition, and to that end it shall be the duty of all courts and judicial officers and of all counsel, both the prosecution and the defense, to expedite such proceedings to the greatest degree that is consistent with the ends of justice. . . . (P) . . .Continuances shall be granted only upon a showing of good cause. The convenience of the parties is not in and of itself good cause. . . ." ( § 1050.)

Although the federal constitutional right to a speedy trial may indeed have an "amorphous quality" (Barker v. Wingo (1972) 407 U.S. 514, 522, 92 S.Ct. 2182, 2187, 33 L.Ed.2d 101), our own Legislature has defined certain time periods beyond which the right suffers infringement and has simplified our courts' application of the right. Section 1382 provides: "The court, unless good cause to the contrary is shown, must order the action to be dismissed in the following cases: . . . (P) 2. When a defendant is not brought to trial in a superior court within 60 days after the finding of the indictment or the filing of the information . . . ; except that an action shall not be dismissed under this subdivision if it is set for trial on a date beyond the 60-day period at the request of the defendant or with his consent, express or implied, . . . and if the defendant is brought to trial on the date so set for trial or within 10 days thereafter."

In applying section 1382 to the present case, three questions arise: (1) were the postponements in the present case granted at the request of defense counsel but over defendant's express objection, made "at the request of the defendant or with his consent?" (2) Did the trial court have "good cause" for denying defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial? (3) Was defendant prejudiced by the delay in bringing his case to trial? Initially we set forth the procedural history of this case as it bears on defendant's claim that he was denied a speedy trial; we then analyze the three issues in the order listed.

On February 2, 1977, defendant Johnson, represented by the public defender, and codefendant Sumlin were arraigned in superior court and entered pleas of not guilty. Trial was set for March 23. On that date, defendant Johnson appeared in court with his counsel, Deputy Public Defender Dennis Cohen. Cohen explained that he was presently engaged in the trial of another case and had no available date until May 6. The trial court viewed this explanation as an implied request for a continuance. Over defendant's objection, the court found "good cause" for the continuance and postponed trial until May 6. 2 On May 6, defense counsel again requested a continuance, explaining that he had three other trials to complete before the Johnson case. The court again, "for good cause," over defendant's objection, granted a continuance to June 14. 3

On May 27, defendant filed a petition on his own behalf for writ of habeas corpus, seeking a dismissal on the ground that he had been denied a speedy trial. Defendant pointed out that his counsel "asked the court for and was granted two continuances without petitioner's consent or waiver or waiver of time that well exce(e)ded sixty days" after the filing of the information. The court summarily denied defendant's petition.

On June 14, the court excused counsel until June 23. 4 A minute order for June 23, 1977, indicates that on that day the trial court, "due to congested calendar," trailed trial to a date "not later than June 27, 1977, or to such earlier date as a trial court is available (deemed 10th day, pursuant to stipulation)." On June 27, the court called the case for trial, and jury selection began. Thus defendant was brought to trial 144 days after the information was filed against him. During this entire period defendant, unable to make bail, was confined in jail.

On July 12, after the presentation of evidence at trial, 5 the jury returned a verdict finding defendant guilty of the three counts of robbery with which he was charged, but finding not true the allegation that defendant was armed with a knife. The jury acquitted codefendant Sumlin.

Although defendant raised his claim of denial of a speedy trial by a pretrial writ of habeas corpus in the trial court, he did not seek pretrial appellate resolution of that issue. Following conviction, however, he appealed, asserting that the charges against him should have been dismissed for failure to bring the case to trial within 60 days from the filing of the information.

The postponement of trial to May 6, 1977, which put the trial date beyond the 60-day period, the second continuance to June 14, and the third continuance to June 23 were each granted at the express or implied request of the public defender, but in each instance over the express objection of defendant. The postponements were not sought nor granted to serve the best interests of the defendant; they stem from calendar conflicts of the public defender, and the decision of the public defender and the court to resolve these conflicts by trying other cases in advance of that of defendant. We thus face the initial issue: whether appointed defense counsel may under these circumstances waive his client's right to a trial within the statutory period of section 1382 over the express objection of his client.

A. Counsel lacked authority to waive defendant's right to a speedy trial under section 1382.

The power of appointed counsel to control judicial strategy and to waive nonfundamental rights despite his client's objection (see Townsend v. Superior Court (1975) 15 Cal.3d 774, 781, 126 Cal.Rptr. 251, 543...

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