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Name: People v. McCray (2023) 98 Cal.App.5th 260
Case #: A166084
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 12/22/2023

Record failed to show that OMHD defendant validly waived his right to a jury where the trial court did not take any steps to determine if defendant understood his jury right and instead relied on counsel’s perfunctory questioning. Following a bench trial, McCray was recommitted as a violent offender with a mental health disorder (OMHD). On appeal, McCray raised a number of issues, including that the trial court failed to obtain from him a knowing and intelligent waiver of his right to a jury. While the appeal was pending, the recommitment at issue expired and McCray was recommitted based on a new petition. The Court of Appeal found this rendered the appeal moot but decided the jury waiver issue under an exception to mootness. Held: Dismissed as moot. A reviewing court independently examines the record to determine whether a defendant’s jury waiver was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary and will uphold the waiver if the record affirmatively shows that it is voluntary and intelligent under the totality of the circumstances. This requires some showing that the defendant understood the mechanics of a jury trial—such as the number of jurors, the voir dire process, and the unanimity requirements. The record here did not meet this standard. The jury waiver colloquy consisted of McCray’s counsel asking whether he agreed to waive his right to a jury without any advisement on the record about the procedures inherent in a jury trial. “The essential problem in this case is that the trial court effectively outsourced to counsel the task of ensuring McCray fully understood what he was giving up, and then did nothing to verify what counsel advised his client.” Moreover, the Court of Appeal would not presume a knowing waiver from the fact that McCray had been party to multiple prior OMHD hearings because there was no showing in any of them that he made a knowing waiver of his right to a jury.