Waiver of Right to Jury Trial In California
In People v. Ernst (1994) 8 Cal. 4th 441 34 Cal. Rptr. 2d 238, 881 P.2d 298, the Supreme Court held that a defendant's right to a jury trial can only be waived personally by the defendant.
A personal waiver of the right to trial by jury is explicitly required by the California Constitution. (Cal. Const., art. I, 16.)
Case law also requires personal waivers for other "fundamental" rights of a personal nature. "It is for the defendant to decide such fundamental matters as whether to plead guilty, whether to waive the right to trial by jury citation, whether to waive the right to counsel, and whether to waive the right to be free from self-incrimination citation.
As to these rights, the criminal defendant must be admonished and the court must secure an express waiver; as to other fundamental rights of a less personal nature, courts may assume that counsel's waiver reflects the defendant's consent in the absence of an express conflict." (In re Horton (1991) 54 Cal. 3d 82, 95 284 Cal. Rptr. 305, 813 P.2d 1335, fn. omitted.)
Outside of a handful of "fundamental" rights of a personal nature, an accused surrenders control over defense strategies and tactics in his case to defense counsel. (In re Horton, supra, 54 Cal. 3d at p. 95.)
For example, in People v. Bradford (1997) 14 Cal. 4th 1005, 1052 60 Cal. Rptr. 2d 225, 929 P.2d 544, the Supreme Court ruled a trial court has no duty "to sua sponte inform a defendant of his right to testify and to obtain an express personal waiver of that right."
One factor distinguishing the right to a jury trial from the right to testify is the absence of a provision in the California Constitution requiring an express personal waiver of the right to testify.