In April 1999, a knife-brandishing Edward Phillip Mckenna entered a La Habra dress shop, tied up the 73-year-old clerk, raped her, robbed the store and stole the woman's vehicle.
Mckenna, already a convicted felon for a prior attempted murder and robbery he committed for a criminal street gang, demanded after his 2007 arrest that he be allowed to represent himself at trial.
After repeatedly cautioning the defendant about the stupidity of such a move, an Orange County Superior Court judge accepted the request.
During the trial, a frustrated Mckenna wasn't happy that the semen left in the victim matched his DNA beyond any reasonable doubt–more than one in a trillion, so he switched his plea from not guilty to not guilty by reason of insanity. A jury didn't buy it. They convicted him and he was sent away to prison.
Mckenna appealed, claiming that his right to a fair trial had been violated because he'd been represented by an idiot, himself.
But this month a California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana considered the facts of the case and upheld the convictions. The justices noted that Mckenna repeatedly signed a waiver acknowledging that by representing himself he would not gain any special rights. They also pointed to a conversation the defendant had with a judge.
Judge: You understand that it's not smart to try and represent yourself?
Mckenna: Well, I know.
Judge: And that because you are not experienced you might ask the wrong questions, you might call some witnesses, and what they have to say or any mistakes you make could help the prosecutor in actually convicting you of these very serious charges alleged against you. You realize that?
(The judge also told Mckenna that if he was ultimately convicted, he would not be able to demand a new trial by asserting an ineffective counsel argument.)
“All evidence supports the jury's guilty verdict,” wrote Justice Eileen C. Moore in the 18-page opinion.
Upshot: Mckenna, 47, will continue to serve his 25 years to life sentence at Corcoran State Prison.