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Name: People v. Salter
Case #: E054646
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 10/26/2012
Summary

Defendant is not denied due process where the trial court fails to appoint a second attorney to advocate her competency after trial defense counsel has declared a doubt as to defendant’s competence to stand trial. After killing a pedestrian with her car, appellant was charged with vehicular manslaughter and other offenses. Prior to trial her attorney moved for a mental health evaluation (Evid. Code, § 1017), which was performed. Thereafter counsel moved to suspend criminal proceedings (Pen. Code, § 1368) and agreed to submit the issue of mental competence on two doctors’ reports. Defense counsel informed the court that appellant wanted a trial on the matter. The court allowed counsel to waive appellant’s trial rights. Appellant was found incompetent and was committed to a mental institution. On appeal she asserted the trial court erred in not appointing a second attorney to advocate her competency and for not allowing her a full hearing. Held: Affirmed. Unlike criminal cases, a competency proceeding is generally governed by rules applicable to civil proceedings. The right to jury trial is statutory and may be waived by counsel, even over defendant’s objection. In such proceedings counsel is charged with playing a greater role in making strategic decisions because the mental competency of the defendant is in question. Here, defendant did not request appointment of another attorney to advocate her competency and the trial court had no sua sponte duty to appoint a second lawyer. Appellant’s due process rights were not violated.