I often like reading the specific Faretta admonitions that district courts give to criminal defendants who ask to represent themselves at trial. They're typically spot on, and really do try to convince the defendant that it's an incredibly bad idea to ditch an attorney.
The trial court here did that in spades. Here's what the judge said:
"THE COURT: [I]n my 30 years of being on
both sides of the courtroom as a defense
counsel, prosecutor and now 12 years as a
judge in a criminal case I have never seen anybody who has ever represented themselves
competently; do you understand that?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, I do.
THE COURT: If you represent yourself
incompetently you’re stuck with you and you
suffer the consequences. The consequences if
convicted, the State informs me, is a sentence
of life without possibility of parole.
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir. I fully
THE COURT: And that as a practical matter
if you represent yourself—and this is just me
talking up here.
THE DEFENDANT: Okay.
THE COURT: As a practical matter the court
might as well sign an order sending you to
prison without possibility of parole right now
because you’re going to screw your case up;
do you understand that?"
Well now. Tell us what you really think, Your Honor.
Despite those warnings, the defendant represented himself. And, predictably . . . .
Okay, so he wasn't totally acquitted. The jury acquitted him on the two charged
counts of second degree assault (counts 2 and 3), convicted him on the charge of unlawful possession of a firearm (count 4), and impliedly acquitted
him on the greater charge of first degree assault (count 1) by convicting him of the lesser-included offense of second
degree assault. As a result of these wins, the trial court did not, in fact, "sign an order sending you to prison without possibility of parole right now," but instead sentenced him to 115 months in prison.
No small sentence, to be sure. But nothing near LWOP.
Rarely do you see good things come to a person who represents himself. And, perhaps, an actual attorney could have done even better.
Still. Something unusual. In that the defendant's decision to represent himself here was not an unmitigated disaster.