Judge Ron Brown has denied Glenn Sunkett's request to boot Mendo's top
public defender from his case.
There were several hearings on Sunkett's attempt at firing Linda Thompson—all of which were closed to the public and for which the record was sealed. So Sunkett, a black man from Oakland who was convicted last June of being the point man in a home invasion-robbery on the Mendo Coast and is facing life in prison, asked Brown to let him take a solo stab at a request for a new trial—a request that prosecutor Jill Ravitch objected to but Judge Brown granted last week.
Not that Sunkett's thrilled with his prospects—he just has no idea what else to do. “I'm fighting for my life but I know I can't represent myself,” he said in an interview from county jail, where he's been since September 2008. “There's no way in the world I can represent myself on these charges but [Thompson] wasn't doing it and the judge wasn't letting nobody else come in and represent me.”
During the closed hearing, Sunkett said, Brown told him that Thompson didn't need to “consult or confer” with him prior to his trial—which is one of Sunkett's primary gripes with Thompson. She met with him for a total of about an hour before the three-week case began last summer, he said. She never contacted several of his alibi witnesses, nor did she challenge jury members who he said were friendly with detectives on his case; she didn't file any motions to suppress questionable eyewitness evidence, nor did she get an expert witness on the stand who Sunkett said he paid $2,900 for to have flown from Nevada. Why? Because Thompson never put the expert's name on the witness list, Sunkett said.
After his arrest nearly two years ago, Sunkett said he signed up with local criminal defense lawyer Richard Petersen; that fell through, however, and he ended up with Thompson as his enduring court-appointed attorney. Back then, Sunkett said, money wasn't an issue. Now it is.
Last Friday, Sunkett said he ended a three-week hunger strike—his third while in custody—to protest the Thompson situation and his treatment in jail. Sunkett said he wanted Thompson to mention the extremes he'd gone to in order to get her off his case. Which she didn't.
Thompson has not returned phone calls seeking comment. Sunkett's hearing for a new trial is scheduled for March 19.