People v. Williams

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Citation235 Cal.App.2d 389,45 Cal.Rptr. 427
Decision Date28 June 1965
Docket NumberCr. 4640
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. James Lee WILLIAMS, Defendant and Appellant.

Page 427

45 Cal.Rptr. 427
235 Cal.App.2d 389
PEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
James Lee WILLIAMS, Defendant and Appellant.
Cr. 4640.
District Court of Appeal, First District, Division 1, California.
June 28, 1965.

Page 429

[235 Cal.App.2d 392] Patricia C. Remmes, San Francisco (under appointment of the District Court of Appeal), for appellant.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., Robert R. Granucci, Charles W. Rumph, Deputy Attys. Gen., San Francisco, for respondent.

SIMS, Justice.

Appellant appeals from his conviction of robbery in the second degree in violation of the provisions of section 211 of the Penal Code following his trial by jury. 1

In the late evening of December 19, 1963, and the early morning of December 20, 1963, one Ernest Gonzales, a draftsman for the City and County of San Francisco, was cruising in his car in the area of McAllister and Webster Streets in San Francisco. At that location he stopped and had a conversation with Joan Williams, codefendant in this case. Gonzales had seen Joan Williams approximately two weeks prior to this meeting at which time he had approached her with a proposition to engage in an act of prostitution. Gonzales testified that on a previous occasion he had given money to [235 Cal.App.2d 393] Joan Williams to perform an act of prostitution, but appellant had appeared and the transaction was called off without Joan Williams returning Gonzales' money.

On the night in question Gonzales picked up Joan Williams, and she agreed to perform

Page 430

the act which he had previously paid her for. They drove around a few blocks in the area of McAllister and Webster before parking the car on Webster near Golden Gate Avenue. Gonzales placed his wallet under the front seat of the car before he alighted and then followed Joan Williams into a passageway near the rear of a building. He followed her there on the basis of her representation that she had a place to perform the promised act.

The passageway was of considerable length and very dark, and as Gonzales proceeded down it he suddenly recognized appellant standing against the wall. Upon being asked by appellant what was going on, Joan Williams stated she was 'going to make something right by him' (indicating Gonzales), and then stated that the 'police are across the street.' Appellant concurred in this statement after going to the front door and looking. After waiting for a short time, Gonzales decided to leave but was prevented from doing so by appellant.

According to Gonzales, appellant put his foot against the door and pushed Gonzales back against the wall. He then forced Gonzales to move further back along the wall, pulled his hand out of his pocket and shoved it against Gonzales' throat. Gonzales testified that while he did not see any object in appellant's hand because his chin was pushed back, that the object had a sharp point and in fact left a small laceration on his throat.

Gonzales was then told to raise his arms and hold them out from his sides, following which codefendant Joan Williams and appellant rifled his pockets. They took the small amount of money which he had on him plus his car keys. Appellant and codefendant then left in Gonzales' 1962 Oldsmobile. Gonzales left the passageway as they were driving off, and ran after the car for a block or so until he was pushed away from it. He testified that at no time did he give them permission to take his car or his money.

Appellant and codefendant proceeded to Los Angeles in the car, discovering on their way Gonzales' wallet under the seat of the car. It contained cash and a gasoline credit card. They then indulged in a series of purchases of tires, batteries and other accessories which were acquired by use of the credit [235 Cal.App.2d 394] card and sold. They also sold a movie projector and several reels of film which were in the car at the time.

Appellant and his codefendant denied use of force or fear to get Gonzales' keys. According to their testimony they perpetrated a form of theft on Gonzales known as the 'carpet pad' or 'paddy hustle.' In their version, Joan Williams lured Gonzales to the hallway of an apartment house, at which point appellant confronted them posing as the apartment manager. He then informed Gonzales that he should leave his valuables in his custody for safekeeping, following which both appellant and codefendant disappeared from the scene. The accuseds' version of the affair, in addition to denying any use of force or fear, also differed from that of the victim in respect of the place of the transaction--an upstairs hallway, rather than the passageway described by the victim--and in that they denied going through his pockets and that he chased the car.

Appellant makes the following contentions: That evidence of his extrajudicial statements was improperly admitted; that he was deprived of his constitutional right to have counsel appointed for his defense; that he was denied equal protection of the law; that the court's instructions and comments on the evidence were improper; that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion for commitment as a narcotic addict pursuant to the provisions of section 6451 of the Penal Code; that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion for a determination of his sanity at the time of trial pursuant to the provisions of section 1368 of the Penal Code; that the court erred in denying his motion to disqualify the judge presiding at the trial; and that the evidence is insufficient to sustain the conviction.

Page 431

In the interests of clarity these points will be discussed in the order in which they arose in the record.

Appellant was not deprived of his constitutional right to counsel

Appellant relies on Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) 372 U.S. 335, 83 S.Ct. 792, 9 L.Ed.2d 799 as establishing his unquestionable right to the assistance of counsel in his defense; and on People v. Robinson (1954) 42 Cal.2d 741, 745-748, 269 P.2d 6, People v. Donohoe (1962) 200 Cal.App.2d 17, 22-30, 19 Cal.Rptr. 454, and People v. Kerfoot (1960) 184 Cal.App.2d 622, 637-645, 7 Cal.Rptr. 674 for the proposition that he is denied the effective assistance of counsel when he is required to accept representation by one [235 Cal.App.2d 395] counsel jointly with a codefendant where the interests of the several defendants may be conflicting. (See also People v. Douglas (1964) 61 Cal.2d 430, 436-439, 38 Cal.Rptr. 884, 392 P.2d 964.)

The facts reflect that an information charging the defendants jointly with robbery was filed on February 19, 1964. The defendants appeared with the assistant public defender and were arraigned on February 21. At that time a clause of the information charging that the defendants were armed with a deadly weapon apparently was amended to show that the defendants were armed with a knife rather than a pistol, as originally charged. On the 26th, with representation by the public defender, pleas of not guilty were entered and the matter was set for trial on March 9. The first suggestion that the appellant was dissatisfied with representation by the public defender ensued when the matter was called for trial on March 12, to which date it had been regularly continued for trial along with an earlier charge. 2 At that time appellant announced he was dismissing the public defender and that he wished to conduct the defense of himself and his 'wife.' His codefendant joined in this move. The court continued the matter to March 16 for trial, instructed the defendants concerning securing witnesses and ordered that a copy of the Penal Code be furnished appellant.

The following morning the parties were brought before the bench on the court's own motion. When it appeared that they were not legally married, the court advised them that appellant could not represent his codefendant. The question of whether or not counsel was desired was reopened, and each defendant having expressed a desire for counsel, and having indicated that it was agreeable to have the same counsel and that there was no conflict of interest between them, one attorney was appointed by the court to represent both defendants. The court explored the question of conflict of interest with the prosecutor and the representative of the public defender's office who had represented the defendants when they were arraigned and when they entered their plea. The latter stated that she thought there was a possibility of conflict. The court again reviewed the names of the witnesses to be called by the People, requested the prosecution to furnish all discoverable matters to the attorney for the defendant, and continued the [235 Cal.App.2d 396] matter to March 16 for setting. The matter was then regularly set for trial on March 18 with the consent of the court appointed attorney.

On the latter date appellant for the second time expressed a desire to dismiss his attorney and requested a continuance. The court denied the continuance. After questioning the defendant at length out of the presence of the jury, the judge concluded that the defendant had made an intelligent waiver of counsel, and ordered that he represent himself. After the impanelment of the jury, the court reopened the subject. Defendant then expressed a desire to be represented by the court appointed attorney, and the latter was appointed and acted with diligence and skill for defendant throughout the trial. Any question of conflict, theretofore waived personally by defendant, had also been laid to rest by the statements of

Page 432

appointed counsel that no conflict existed in the position of the two defendants.

This case falls short of the principles upon which appellant relies. When he first dismissed the public defender he did not assert any conflict of interest with his codefendant, but sought to represent their joint interests. No reason was suggested for his dissatisfaction and he was properly granted a continuance to prepare for...

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