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SAN JOSE — Blaming a Santa Clara County judge’s “defective and misleading” warnings, the Sixth District Court of Appeal tossed out a defendant’s seven-year sentence for car theft. In a sharply worded unpublished opinion released Friday, the panel said Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Ronald Lisk blew it when he told Daniel Nagy he’d be better off representing himself at trial. Early on, Lisk advised Nagy not to go without a lawyer, telling him doing so makes it “easier for the DA to get convictions.” He noted Nagy had the constitutional right to represent himself, but then added, “I sometimes wonder if [appellate courts] really know what they are saying when [they say] I have to go over and try to convince you not to do this.” Lisk then said he sometimes tries to persuade defendants not to do it, but told Nagy, “I think it is in your best interest to do so. You’ll feel better about yourself. You’ll feel better about the case. You get to ask the questions you want to ask.” The panel said the instructions didn’t allow Nagy to make a “knowing and intelligent” waiver of his right to be represented by an attorney. “The trial judge’s inappropriate comments to defendant essentially negated or at least seriously undermined the efficacy of the earlier remarks,” wrote Justice Nathan Mihara. He was joined by Justices Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian and Richard McAdams. Nagy was convicted of stealing a car and driving with a suspended license and sentenced to seven years. He was originally represented by a public defender but told Lisk he wanted a new lawyer or, failing that, would go it alone. “Nagy had no business representing himself. He just trashed [the trial],” said Lindy Hayes, the Santa Clara deputy public defender initially assigned to his case. Hayes said she and her client were constantly at loggerheads over how things should be done. She said Nagy, who had represented himself once before at a trial, had her chasing down people who either didn’t exist or whom he could only identify in vague terms. “Nagy was of the mind that if he could just have his way about things, it would be fine,” Hayes said Friday. But when Judge Lisk finally gave him his wish, Nagy immediately realized he’d made a mistake, Hayes said, recalling how he’d called her after the trial and said, “I should have kept you.” “He’s a bit of a nut, and he won’t shut up,” she added. Deputy Attorney General Ryan McCarroll, who handled the appeal, declined to comment Friday because he hadn’t seen the opinion. Mihara’s opinion in People v. Nagy, H026195, noted that the panel couldn’t find a case where a trial judge had advised a defendant that it was in his best interest to represent himself.

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