Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Court-Assisted Suicide

Dahlia Lithwick examines the confused “defense” of John Muhammad in his sniper trial and wonders how the American justice system allows mental cases to defend themselves. Short answer:

After Faretta, it is the responsibility of the trial judge to ensure that the accused understands the nature of the charges against him, recognizes the risks of self-representation, and that he "unequivocally," "knowingly and intelligently" waives his right to counsel. Following such a colloquy, the judge is constitutionally bound to allow the defendant to wreck his life.

Lithwick also notes that Muhammad is acting as his own attorney because he thinks “that the government wants an execution at all costs, and their state-appointed attorney is a part of that conspiracy.” On point “A” he’s correct, and with good reason.

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