Advanced Criminal Defense Clinic students, Jennifer Williams (’14) and Katherine Lin (’14), are currently representing a client on his direct appeal to the State of California after his conviction on a felony drug charge. On appeal, the questions presented were: (1) whether his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of choice was violated; and (2) whether the state improperly interfered with his plea deal, thus rendering his public defender ineffective.
Weeks before his trial, Jenny and Katherine’s client asked the trial court judge to allow him to discharge his public defender and hire his own attorney. He explained to the court that he had finally raised enough money from family and friends to hire his own lawyer, and that he had already contacted two different attorneys who agreed to represent him in his trial, one of whom was ready to come in that same afternoon. Despite clear California case law protecting a defendant’s constitutional right to preferred counsel, the trial court denied his request. Then, on the day of trial, he tried to accept a plea deal the State had offered him. Again, despite California law to the contrary — and over the rigorous objection of both the District Attorney and the defense – the trial judge refused to accept the plea deal. He was sentenced to more than a decade in county jail.
Jenny and Katherine have filed the opening brief on these issues, and are currently awaiting the state’s opposition.