PEOPLE v. HUTCHINSON No. D059349.
THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. OMAR TYREE HUTCHINSON, Defendant and Appellant.
Court of Appeals of California, Fourth District, Division One.
Filed September 7, 2012.
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS
A jury convicted Omar Hutchinson of two counts of murder with special circumstance findings. On appeal, Hutchinson asserts the trial court erred when it failed to hold a Marsden
In the event the judgment is reinstated after the Marsden hearing, we also address Hutchinson's contentions that several corrections should be made to the judgment, the minute order, and the abstract of judgment.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
The issues before us do not implicate the facts underlying the murders involved in this case; thus we summarily describe them. On August 29, 2006, two deceased men were found in the trunk of a car. Hutchinson and two accomplices were convicted of first degree murder of the two men, with special circumstance findings of multiple murders and murder during the commission of robbery. Hutchinson was sentenced to two life terms without the possibility of parole.
I. Failure to Hold Marsden Hearing
After the jury's verdict, Hutchinson wrote a letter to the trial court stating that his trial attorney (Ryan Markson) had not provided effective representation, and listing various complaints about Markson's acts or omissions. Prior to sentencing, Markson obtained a continuance to review the letter to determine if there was a conflict in his representation and whether a new trial motion should be filed on Hutchinson's behalf. At the next proceeding, Markson told the court that he was not in a position to objectively evaluate Hutchinson's claims of ineffective representation; there was a conflict of interest; and another attorney should be appointed to evaluate if there were grounds for a new trial motion premised on ineffective assistance grounds. The court granted his request, and appointed Attorney Christine Juneau to examine whether there were grounds for a new trial motion.
After reviewing the record and meeting with Hutchinson, Juneau informed the court there were no grounds for a new trial motion based on the issues raised by Hutchinson. The court then relieved Juneau and reappointed Markson as Hutchinson's attorney to represent him at sentencing.
Under Marsden, when a defendant requests new appointed counsel due to ineffective representation by current counsel, the trial court must conduct a hearing to provide the defendant an opportunity to explain the reasons underlying his contention that the appointed attorney was providing ineffective representation. (Sanchez, supra, 53 Cal.4th at p. 87.) The trial court is required to appoint new counsel if the defendant has shown that a failure to replace the appointed attorney would substantially impair the right to assistance of counsel; i.e., if the record shows that the first attorney is not providing adequate representation or that an irreconcilable conflict has developed between the defendant and the attorney so that ineffective representation is likely to result. (Id. at p. 89.)
In the recent Sanchez case, the California Supreme Court reviewed the Marsden hearing rule and an array of its decisions interpreting the rule. The defendant in Sanchez pled guilty while represented by appointed counsel, and then at sentencing the defendant indicated he wanted to withdraw his plea. (Sanchez, supra, 53 Cal.4th at pp. 84-85.) The trial court granted a continuance for defense counsel to decide whether conflict counsel needed to be appointed to examine the plea withdrawal issue. At the next proceeding, defense counsel told the court that conflict counsel needed to be appointed, and the court ordered this appointment for the sole purpose of evaluating a plea withdrawal motion. When the proceedings resumed, new counsel told the court there was no basis to move for plea withdrawal, and the court reappointed the defendant's original counsel to represent him at sentencing. (Id. at p. 85.)
The Sanchez court concluded that this procedure was improper. The high court held that rather than simply appointing new counsel, the trial court was required to hold a Marsden hearing to determine if new counsel should be appointed. The Sanchez court set forth several directives on the Marsden hearing issue, including: (1) a Marsden hearing to determine whether to discharge counsel is required only when there is at least some clear indication by the defendant, either personally or through his current counsel, that the defendant wants a substitute attorney; (2) if a defendant requests substitute counsel the trial court must conduct a Marsden hearing and give the defendant an opportunity to state any grounds for dissatisfaction with current counsel; (3) if at the Marsden hearing the defendant shows his right to counsel has been substantially impaired, substitute counsel must be appointed as the attorney for all purposes; and (4) it is improper to appoint a substitute or conflict attorney solely to evaluate whether the defendant has a legal ground to withdraw a plea. (Sanchez, supra, 53 Cal.4th at pp. 84, 89-90, 92.)
In reaching these conclusions, the Sanchez court explained that when a defendant has requested substitute counsel due to ineffective representation by current counsel, the trial court may not delegate its duty to evaluate the claims of ineffective representation to a conflict counsel. The court admonished: "`[D]efense counsel, like the trial courts, should abandon their reliance on counsel specially appointed to do the trial court's job of evaluating the defendant's assertions of incompetence of counsel and deciding the defendant's new trial or plea withdrawal motion. . . .' . . . .'[T]he proper procedure does not include the appointment of "conflict" or "substitute" counsel to investigate or evaluate the defendant's proposed new trial or plea withdrawal motion.'" (Sanchez, supra, 53 Cal.4th at p. 89, italics added, some brackets in original.) Further, the court stated the procedure of appointing substitute counsel "to represent defendant on a motion to withdraw his plea in lieu of conducting a Marsden hearing—in effect, grant[ed] the defendant's Marsden motion without conducting the required hearing." (Id. at p. 92.)
Although the case before us involves a new trial motion rather than a plea withdrawal motion, Sanchez's holding is applicable here. Notably, the Sanchez court referred to both new trial and plea withdrawal motions when admonishing the courts to abandon the practice of appointing conflict counsel rather than holding a Marsden hearing. (Sanchez, supra, 53 Cal.4th at p. 89.) The essential principle set forth in Sanchez is that when a defendant requests substitute counsel, the defendant's concerns about his counsel's representation must be reviewed by the trial court, and the trial court cannot bypass this judicial determination by appointing substitute counsel to review defendant's complaints. This principle applies equally in the context of a new trial motion.
The Attorney General contends that the Marsden hearing requirement was not triggered here because Hutchinson did not make a specific request for substitute counsel when he raised his claims of ineffective representation. The analysis and holding in Sanchez compel a contrary conclusion. Sanchez states that the Marsden hearing requirement is triggered when there is "some clear indication by the defendant, either personally or through counsel, that defendant wants a substitute attorney." (Sanchez, supra, 53 Cal.4th at p. 84.) Defense counsel in Sanchez told the court that the defendant wished to have counsel explore having his plea withdrawn, and after a continuance, defense counsel told the court that conflict counsel needed to be appointed. (Id. at p. 85.) The California Supreme Court concluded that this equated with a request for substitute counsel by defendant's counsel, stating: "`the trial court's duty to conduct a Marsden hearing was triggered by defense counsel's request for appointment of substitute counsel to investigate the filing of a motion to withdraw [the] plea on Sanchez's behalf.'" (Id. at p. 90, fn. 3, bracket in original.) Likewise here, the duty to conduct a Marsden hearing was triggered by defense counsel's request for the appointment of conflict counsel to evaluate the filing of a new trial motion on ineffective assistance grounds.
We reverse the judgment and remand the matter to the trial court with directions to hold a Marsden hearing to determine whether a failure to replace Hutchinson's appointed attorney would substantially impair his right to assistance of counsel. If the Marsden motion is denied and/or if any new trial motion is denied, the trial court shall reinstate the judgment. (See Sanchez, supra, 53 Cal.4th, at pp. 92-93.)
In the event the judgment is reinstated after the Marsden hearing, we address several matters that Hutchinson contends should be corrected.
A. Multiple-murder Special Circumstance
Hutchinson contends the judgment includes two multiple-murder special circumstance findings, whereas only one is proper. He requests that one of the multiple-murder findings be stricken.
In death penalty cases, the California Supreme Court has fashioned the rule that only one multiple-murder special circumstance should be charged and found true to avoid an inflated risk that the jury will arbitrarily impose the death penalty based on the sheer number of special circumstances. (People v. Allen (1986)
Here, the information charged Hutchinson with two multiple-murder special circumstance allegations (one for each murder victim). However, the jury returned one verdict form stating that based on the murder convictions in counts 1 and 2, this special circumstance allegation was true.
B. Victim Restitution
Hutchinson asserts that the minute order and abstract of judgment should be corrected to accurately reflect the court's order regarding victim restitution. We agree.
The probation report recommended that the court order Hutchinson to "[p]ay restitution $15,000.00 to the extent the victim received assistance from California Victims Compensation and Government Claims Board (1202.4(f)(2)PC)[.]" At sentencing, the court stated it had received a note from the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (Board) setting the amount of restitution at $14,573.86. Accordingly, the court ordered that amount in victim restitution and said the order was "joint and severally imposed upon all three defendants." The court's minute order states: "Pay $14573.86 for V-Victim restitution [victim] . . . ." The abstract of judgment states that the amount of restitution is $14,573.86 to "victim(s)."
Hutchinson contends the minute order and abstract of judgment should be amended to include the trial court's order that the restitution amount is owed jointly and severally by Hutchinson and his two codefendants (Franchune Epps and Brooke Rottiers). The Attorney General concedes, and we agree, the joint and several provision should be added to the minute order and abstract of judgment.
Hutchinson further contends the minute order and abstract of judgment should be corrected to reflect the court's order that the victim restitution amount should be deposited into the restitution fund administered by the Board. The Attorney General disputes this interpretation of the court's order, but we agree with Hutchinson. Penal Code section 1202.4, subdivision (f) requires the court to order victim restitution in every case in which a victim has suffered economic loss as a result of the defendant's conduct.
C. Parole Revocation Fine
As recognized by the parties, the minute order and abstract of judgment improperly include a $5,000 parole revocation fine pursuant to section 1202.45. The reference to this parole revocation fine should be removed from the minute order and abstract of judgment because the court did not order the fine, and it is inapplicable since Hutchinson received life sentences without the possibility of parole. (See People v. Brasure (2008)
The judgment is reversed and the case remanded to the trial court with the following directions.
HUFFMAN, Acting P. J. and AARON, J., concurs.
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