People v. Dunkle – Case Brief Summary (California)

In People v. Dunkle (2005) 36 Cal.4th 861, a doubt had been declared in 1987 as to the defendant's competency to stand trial. In May 1988, the trial court found defendant competent to stand trial. (Dunkle, supra, 36 Cal.4th at p. 881.)

On June 15, 1988, the defendant moved to dismiss his attorneys under Marsden and further renewed his motion to represent himself under Faretta. (Dunkle, supra, at pp. 903-907.)

At the hearing on the motions, defense counsel raised a doubt as to the defendant's competency and requested the court to reinstitute competency proceedings. (Id. at pp. 903-904.)

The trial court denied the motion to reopen the competency proceedings and granted the Marsden motion but denied the Faretta motion. (Dunkle, supra, at pp. 880-881, 904.)

Thus, Dunkle supports the proposition that the mere expression of a doubt as to the defendant's competency did not deprive the court of jurisdiction to rule on the Faretta motion (although the Dunkle court found that the trial court had erred in denying the motion because it applied the wrong legal standard). (Dunkle, supra, at pp. 908-909.)

Later, in March 1989, the trial court did suspend the criminal proceedings at the request of the prosecution and defense and appointed physicians to determine the defendant's competence. (Id. at p. 882.)

While the criminal proceedings were suspended, the defendant stated in July 1989 that he no longer wished to represent himself.

The court held that the defendant's July 1989 disclaimer of his Faretta rights was not valid because criminal proceedings had then been suspended. (Dunkle, supra, at p. 909.)

Ultimately, however, the court held that the Faretta errors had been waived because in October 1989, after the criminal proceedings had resumed, the defendant again stated he did not wish to represent himself. (Dunkle, supra, at pp. 908-909.)