25-year-old Dwight Doty told a Chicago judge that since the trial involved him and he knew what was going on better than anyone else, he should be allowed to represent himself at trial. The judge denied his request. Doty is accused of killing a 9-year-old boy execution-style.
The judge told Doty that he believed his pro se defense motion was just a bid for delay. When a defendant petitions the court to represent themselves, the judge must sign off on the motion before allowing it to proceed. Famous individuals who represented themselves unsuccessfully include Colin Ferguson and Ted Bundy. In both cases, you had defendants with enough presumed intelligence to carry on the task of questioning witnesses. Both proved to be monumental disasters, however.
A judge in a criminal trial has a vested interest in ensuring that the proceedings are carried out fairly. In this case, the judge grilled Doty on his education and asked him why he thought he was qualified to try a case against two skilled defendants. Doty did not seem to have a good answer to that question, but was that good enough for the judge to deny his motion?
Understanding Competency in Pro Se Defenses
Essentially, there are four elements that a judge must consider when determining whether or not a defendant can represent themselves during a trial. These include:
- The defendant’s age,
- The defendant’s level of education,
- The defendant’s familiarity with English, and
- The seriousness of the crime with which the defendant is being charged.
In this case, Doty is charged with the first-degree murder of a child for which he could spend the rest of his life in prison. He never completed high-school. While Doty’s attorney reminded the court that higher courts have upheld a defendant’s right to represent themselves regardless of how wise it was, the judge ruled that allowing Doty to represent himself so late in the proceedings would cost the trial needless delay. On that basis, Doty was denied his right to defend himself.
However, so long as the defendant understands the charges against them and has a basic idea what was happening, the court generally cannot force him or her to hire an attorney.
Motive for Crime is Gang-Related
Police say that Doty along with two other men lured the 9-year-old boy into an alley and shot him execution-style. The motive behind the case is believed to be gang-related. Police contend that the boy’s father was a member of a rival gang. Weapons charges are being brought against Anthony Morgan, who police allege purchased the gun through a straw buyer in New Mexico. Morgan worked as a postal worker and saw that the package was delivered to Corey Morgan, his brother. The gun was allegedly used to kill the boy.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are being charged with a serious crime in Chicago, such as using a straw buyer to purchase a weapon or the murder of a child, you need an attorney. Representing yourself may seem like a great way to save money, but you are facing real consequences by not knowing how the system works. Call David Freidberg, Attorney at Law at (312) 560-7100 for more details.
(image courtesy of Quentin Kemmel)