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[“There can be no doubt that closing argument for the defense is a basic element of the adversary factfinding process in a criminal trial”]; People v. Rodrigues (1994) 8 Cal.4th 1060, 1184 [“It is firmly established that a criminal defendant has a constitutional right to have counsel present closing argument to the trier of fact”].)  Although defendant personally waived the presentation of mitigating evidence on his behalf, he did not waive—indeed, he expressly requestedthe presentation of an argument to the jury.  The trial court’s unwarranted refusal in the face of that request to appoint an attorney who would argue for defendant at penalty phase deprived him of a fundamental right guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The error, moreover, was prejudicial:  defendant’s complete lack of representation at this critical phase of trial renders the penalty verdict constitutionally unreliable and requires its reversal.  (United States v. Cronic (1984) 466 U.S. 648, 659.)

California precedents make clear a trial court may not thus abdicate its duty to ensure a criminal defendant the assistance of counsel.  In People v. McKenzie (1983) 34 Cal.3d 616, limited on another ground in People v. Crayton (2002) 28 Cal.4th 346, 364-365, defense counsel refused to participate in the trial because of the court’s adverse pretrial rulings, including denial of a continuance to prepare a defense.  Acknowledging that counsel’s difficulties were created by defendant’s refusal to cooperate, the trial court ruled that defendant had waived his constitutional rights, and thus allowed the trial to proceed without counsel’s participation.  Because the defendant had been removed from the courtroom at the outset of trial due to disruptive behavior, his views concerning counsel’s nonparticipation or the substitution of counsel were never expressed.  (McKenzie, supra, at pp. 624-625.)  McKenzie thus was a weaker case on appeal than the present one, where defendant expressly requested new counsel.  We nonetheless held that appointment of substitute counsel would have been a proper trial court

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