I was reading a WRAL article about the District Attorney wife-hiring trial taking place in Raleigh when the following passage caught my attention: “Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway said that, if [former District Attorney] Wallace Bradsher testifies, he cannot simply deliver a monologue from the witness stand and must pose questions to himself to give prosecutors a chance to object to potential testimony.” I hadn’t previously considered how testimony from a self-represented defendant would work. I looked into it, and this post summarizes what I learned.
This scenario will sound familiar to many criminal attorneys: you’re in court, the DA calls the next case, and the judge asks John Q. Defendant how he pleads?
“Your Honor, I am not ‘JOHN Q. DEFENDANT,’ which is a fictional corporate entity. I am a natural living being, appearing pro per on behalf of John Q. Defendant, free citizen, for the limited purpose of challenging jurisdiction….” What follows next is a confusing series of questions to the judge about standing and injured parties, and quasi-legal arguments full of buzz words about the U.C.C., admiralty court, strawmen, right to travel, capital letters, red ink, fiduciaries, de facto government, accepted for value, etc. On and on and on it goes, for however long the court is willing to listen.
Yep, you’ve got a “sovereign citizen” on your hands.
Readers may have different opinions on the best way to handle these defendants in court (which I hope you will share in the comments), but I recommend taking the simplest approach of all: don’t play the game.
Can a defendant who chooses to represent himself subsequently argue that he received ineffective assistance of “counsel”? No, as illustrated by the recent case of State v. Brunson, __ N.C. App. __ (2012). The defendant in Brunson elected to represent himself. He was convicted of sexually abusing his stepdaughter. He appealed, arguing in part that … Read more
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of North Carolina decided State v. Lane, a capital case involving the abduction, rape, and murder of a five-year-old girl. The defendant in Lane initially sought to represent himself, exercising the right of self-representation established in Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975) (holding that part of the right … Read more