Thursday, September 20, 2012

Oh, So You Want To Defend Yourself In Court?

The person who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.  I can't name a single defense attorney who would represent himself  in court if charged with a crime.  I once took an attorney friend with me to traffic court as my lawyer.  It worked out well.

Quest to Defend Onself In Court Can Be Perilous
In a murder case drawing national attention, Daker, 35, is representing himself against charges he stabbed and strangled Nick’s mother, Karmen Smith, in her Marietta home on Oct. 23, 1995. Prosecutors say that after murdering Smith, Daker attacked Nick when he returned home from school.
Though the right to self-representation has existed since Colonial times, legal experts said that the decision to represent oneself in serious cases, particularly murder, is a perilous undertaking. Especially because of tense courtroom moments like these.

“It would be a disaster waiting to happen,” summed up legendary Georgian defense attorney Bobby Lee Cook. “To put a cross examination in the hands of someone like this would be, in my opinion, 99 times out of a 100, catastrophic to the defendant.”

I frequently see people who have decided to defend themselves in court. I've even prosecuted a few people who defended themselves and sat through some other trials where people represented themselves. With very few exceptions, it is a complete disaster for them.

The people who represent themselves tend to think very highly of themselves and their abilities. They refuse to acknowledge that someone else with years or decades of experience in the courtroom just might know more about trying cases than the defendant themselves.

Daker strikes me as such a man. By all accounts I've seen, he was a very intelligent guy. His intelligence gave him confidence that turned into arrogance. His arrogance turned into a murder conviction about a week after this article. 

Unless you can look me in the eye and tell me that you would perform open-heart surgery on yourself, don't tell me that you would represent yourself in court.
"Awww... it's easy. I just need to wear a suit and tell my side of the story and I'm certain everyone will believe me and disbelieve all of those other people who says something different. What could possibly go wrong?"

Prison.  That's what could go wrong.