Marsden Motion in a Capital Case

In People v. Doolin (2009) 45 Cal.4th 390 (a capital case), on the day of sentencing, the defendant made a Marsden motion, which the court denied. The defendant then made a Faretta motion, which was also denied. The Supreme Court acknowledged that it had not addressed the timeliness of a request for self-representation made after the penalty phase verdict but before sentencing, but determined that it need not do so in the case before it because the defendant's request was "manifestly untimely." (Id. at p. 454.) The Doolin court explained: "Defendant never requested self-representation during the guilt or penalty phase. He appeared on the day set for sentencing and sought, not to act as his own counsel, but to replace his appointed lawyer with a new one and to secure a continuance. Only when this approach failed did defendant seek self-representation . . . . He was not prepared to proceed and could not provide a reasonable estimate of when he would be ready. The trial court's ruling was well within the scope of its discretion." (Id. at pp. 454-455.) In a footnote, the Doolin court observed: "The circumstances of defendant's posttrial request for self-representation are in stark contrast to a recent Court of Appeal decision that held such a motion in a noncapital case is timely if made 'a reasonable time prior to commencement of the sentencing hearing.' (People v. Miller (2007) 153 Cal.App.4th 1015, 1024.) In Miller, the defendant moved for self-representation after the jury rendered its verdict and a new trial motion was made and denied, but more than two months before the scheduled sentencing hearing. At the time he made his motion, the defendant indicated to the court he planned to conduct his own investigation and that he would be prepared on the date the court had set. (Id. at pp. 1020, 1024.) In holding the trial court erred by denying the defendant's motion as untimely, the court observed that concerns about trial delay or disruption do not apply to separate sentencing hearings. (Id. at p. 1024.) Because the defendant's request was timely, he 'had an absolute right to represent himself at sentencing and the trial court was required to grant his request for self-representation, which was unequivocal, as long as he was mentally competent and the request was made "knowingly and intelligently, having been apprised of the dangers of self-representation." ' (Ibid., quoting People v. Welch (1999) 20 Cal.4th 701, 729.)