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Name: People v. Jenan
Case #: F049153
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 03/23/2007

When the trial court expresses doubt as to the mental competence of a defendant unrepresented by counsel, failure to then appoint counsel to represent defendant results in a violation of due process (Drope v. Missouri (1975) 420 U.S. 162,172.) Penal Code section 1368, subdivision (a) provides that if the judge has a doubt as to the mental competence of a defendant, if defendant is not represented, the court shall appointment counsel and recess to allow the two to confer. If counsel informs the court that he believes defendant may be mentally incompetent, the question of competency is to be determined by hearing pursuant to 1368.1 and 1369. [The court may hold the hearing even if counsel does not express doubt.] In this felony action, Mr. Jenan and his co-defendant brother represented themselves as sovereign entities over which the court had no jurisdiction. The trial court twice expressed doubts as to mental competency but failed to appoint counsel to represent them. The appellate court found reversible error and ordered the judgment reversed.