“He Who Represents Himself In Court” . . . Well, You Know The Rest.
In a bizarre example of the folly of a defendant acting as his own pro se counsel, a Clearwater, Florida, man has asked for the death penalty in his own criminal case, while simultaneously trying to defend against it.
Craig Wall, 39, is facing the death penalty in a Pinellas County court for the 2010 murder of his girlfriend Laura Taft and their infant son. Wall’s 5-week-old son was found dead several days prior to Taft’s death. Wall was jailed for violating a domestic violence injunction Taft had in place against him. Shortly thereafter Wall was released on bail and then stabbed Taft to death.
After five years of delay, on February 13, Wall finally pled guilty to Taft’s murder and pled no contest in the death of their baby. However, in a strange turn of events, the defendant only agreed to a plea deal with the prosecutors after the prosecutors agreed to seek the death penalty. Wall has refused the help of The Florida Capital Resource Center–a group that provides resources to indigent defenders in capital cases–and insists upon defending himself. In court, Wall stated that he did not want the help of “scumbag liberals.” He further elaborated, “The presentation of my case and my mitigation is my constitutional right. This is my case. This is my life. All the choices are mine alone to make.”
Wall’s backwards need to espouse his political viewpoints, at the expense of his own litigation strategy, is illustrated in the conflict between his desire that the death penalty be sought and imposed, and his repeated attempts to delay sentencing by requesting more time to prepare his case and his evidence. During a hearing in April 2014, the judge had to make sure Wall understood the purpose of the jury selection process. (When asked, Wall pointed to the jury box and said, “Picking some idiots to sit over there.”) During cross-examination of a prosecution’s witness, the judge had to remind Wall several times that this was where one asks the witness questions, not where a defendant presents his own testimony.
Wall’s case is a stark reminder why the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical, even when guilt appears clear-cut. Whether it is a public defender, private defense attorney, or support from a non-profit group, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help walk a defendant through the complicated process of a criminal trial, especially in capital or death penalty cases. The old nugget of wisdom, “He who represents himself in court has a fool for a client,” has never been more appropriate than in the capital murder arena.
If You Think You Need a Lawyer, You Do. Call NOW!!
Fortunately, very few people ever need representation in a death penalty prosecution. But these are the most complex and challenging of all criminal cases, requiring defense attorneys who possess unique and unquestioned commitment, skill, and expertise. That is the kind of representation that every defendant is entitled to, regardless of the crime(s) charged. That is the kind of experience that Tony Moss brings to the arena.
Are you looking for a skilled attorney who can help defend you against pending criminal charges in either state or federal court? Please contact Attorney Tony Moss at the Tony Moss Firm, L.L.C. to discuss any defense matters. He has offices in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and is prepared to put his 27 years of skill and experience to work for you.