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'Indigent' Bergstrom files appeal from San Quentin


Published: October 30, 2009

CONVICTED SODOMIST and former physician Carl Bergstrom is now in San Quentin State Prison serving his six-year sentence, according to court records. Meanwhile, a nonprofit that provides attorneys for appellants who cant afford their own is preparing to represent him.

In July, a jury found Bergstrom guilty of forcible sodomy on a woman at his Carmel Woods home. Defense attorney Tom Worthington had objected to instructions jurors received before they deliberated, and after Monterey County Superior Court Judge Russell Scott refused to retry the case and sentenced Bergstrom to six years in state prison, an appeal was filed because of the jury instructions.

Michael Kresser, executive director of the nonprofit Sixth District Appellate Program, said his organization has six in-house attorneys and works with about 180 private lawyers who practice within the districts boundaries.

When people are appealing criminal convictions and dont have the money to hire their own criminal attorney, they are appointed counsel, and we provide it, he said. To obtain appointed counsel, youre supposed to be indigent.

Most often, defendants who had public defenders during their criminal trials are appointed to receive legal representation from the program, according to Kresser.

Having just received the file, which still lacks transcripts from Bergstroms two-week jury trial, Kresser was unfamiliar with the case. Although Bergstrom had an expensive defense attorney, and was a concierge doctor in an upscale area with a strong patient list and a home in Carmel Woods, Kresser said his organization often represents formerly wealthy clients.

It is not unusual for someone who has an expensive trial lawyer to be rendered indigent by the time his case reaches the appellate court, he said.

Bergstrom, who was immediately taken into custody upon the verdicts rendering, has since been sued in civil court by several former patients seeking to recover thousands of dollars in subscription fees for his boutique practice. His victim, who continues to be identified as Jane Doe 1, also filed suit against him.

Decision a long way off

The appellate court will not decide whether Bergstrom is guilty or not guilty, but simply whether his trial was conducted properly.

Some people think an appeal is a chance to retry the case, but thats not the case, Kresser said. We look at what happened and whether the legal rulings in the case were correct. If they werent, the appellants attorney will argue the outcome of the case could have been different.

And Kresser said Bergstroms appeal will not be resolved for months.

Generally, a case like that will not reach the decision process for a year to a year-and-a-half, he said, due to the time it takes to assign attorneys on both sides, read through the transcripts, research the issues, and file briefs and responses.

Bergstrom is set to remain in prison at San Quentin, where he was sent after being moved from Monterey County Jail to a California Department of Corrections processing facility in Fresno. The appeal lists the prison as his address.