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Name: People v. Stuckey
Case #: C057782
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 07/09/2009

A defendant has no statutory right to appointment of an expert for a sentencing hearing and any constitutional right that may exist is qualified. Appellant was on probation in two cases for drug offenses when he was arrested for and pled guilty to a new drug offense. Prior to sentencing, defense counsel filed a motion for appointment of an expert, a psychotherapist and a drug treatment evaluator, to assist the defense in procuring alternative options to a prison sentence. The court denied the motion, indicating an expert was not necessary. The appellate court rejected appellant’s argument that he had a statutory right to appointment of an expert under Evidence Code section 730. Applying rules of statutory construction, the court found that in non-capital cases, the right was limited to appointment of experts only for purpose of defense at trial on the issue of guilt and did not extend to sentencing. The court also rejected appellant’s contention that denial of appointment of experts for sentencing purposes violated his rights to due process, equal protection, and effective assistance of counsel. The denial of an expert here did not render the sentencing hearing fundamentally unfair. Although counsel may have a right to an expert at a sentencing hearing to counter the testimony of an expert presented by the prosecution, such was not the case here. As to the equal protection argument, an indigent criminal defendant is not necessarily entitled to the same advantages of the defendant with privately retained counsel and denial of a motion for appointment of an expert for sentencing does not, alone, result in a violation of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.