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Name: People v. Henning
Case #: C060371
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 10/14/2009
Summary

Defendant had right to enter an NGI plea over counsel’s objection, but the error in failing to allow him to do so was harmless where there was insufficient evidence of insanity. In his appeal from his conviction for burglary and attempted robbery, Henning contended that the trial court erred in disallowing him from entering an NGI plea over the objection of defense counsel. The appellate court held that a defendant has a right to personally enter the plea of his choice regardless of what his counsel thinks of the merits. However, although the trial court erred here in failing to allow Henning to enter the NGI plea, the error was harmless. The record shows here that an insanity defense would have been futile. It was not reasonably probable that Henning would have obtained a different result at trial if he had entered an NGI plea. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying a substitution of counsel. Henning also contended that the trial court abused its discretion in denying him a second substitution of appointed counsel because he “lacked faith” in his attorney and because his attorney failed to allow him to enter an NGI plea. The appellate court rejected the argument, finding that Henning’s displeasure with his second appointed attorney did not warrant substitution of counsel under Marsden. However, since Henning had the right to enter an NGI plea, and his counsel refused to allow him to do so, the trial court should have substituted new counsel. The trial court’s failure to substitute counsel was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Although counsel failed to allow Henning to enter an NGI plea, he vigorously pursued (unsuccessfully) evidence which would have supported an insanity defense. Despite his efforts, insufficient evidence was available which would have supported an insanity defense. Counsel was not required to mount a defense lacking in evidentiary support.
CALCRIM No. 220, viewed in light of the instructions as a whole, correctly informs jurors that each element of the crimes must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Appellant argued CALCRIM No. 220 is deficient because it does not instruct the jury that each element of a charged offense must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Citing its prior opinion in People v. Wyatt (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 1592, the court rejected the argument and found it frivolous.