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Name: People v. Valdez
Case #: S026872
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 01/06/2004
Subsequent History: Rehrg. den. 2/24/04

In this lengthy opinion in an automatic appeal from a judgment of death, the California Supreme Court reviewed the denial of appellant’s Marsden motion. Appellant had claimed that counsel failed to communicate with him, speak to witnesses, or file pretrial motions, and asked for a Marsden hearing. Counsel responded with an update of his work on the case. The trial court denied the motion, stating that it found that counsel was properly handling the case. Appellant then filed another Marsden motion claiming he had a conflict of interest with counsel. The court held another Marsden hearing, and again denied the motion. A third motion was made prior to the penalty phase, and likewise denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the record supported the conclusion that counsel’s representation was adequate and there was no irreconcilable conflict of interest between defendant and counsel. Further, the trial court did not err by failing to hold a full Marsden hearing the third time. The mere fact that there appears to be a difference of opinion between a defendant and his attorney over trial tactics doesn’t place the court under a duty to hold a Marsden hearing. Further, appellant’s comments were not sufficient to indicate he was requesting a Marsden hearing since he did not actually request replacement counsel. Appellant’s statement that “if I wanted to go pro per in this case, I could do that” was not an articulate and unmistakable demand for self-representation.