Defending yourself in a criminal case is the biggest mistake you can make. A famous man once said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Our 16th President Abraham Lincoln knew something about pro se defense for he was a country lawyer before he became president.
Today, we saw Exhibit A in why you never want to defend yourself in court, regardless of the criminal charge. (This also applies to civil cases.) The Tampa Bay Times has released a video of Markeith Loyd’s first appearance in court after being apprehended on Tuesday by Orlando area law enforcement authorities. Loyd was the subject of an intense manhunt after he allegedly killed an Orlando police officer as well as his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
During his court appearance today refused the assistance of legal counsel, repeatedly swore at the judge, and spoke openly about the criminal cases pending against him. He continued talking even after the Judge warned him that his words were being recorded and could be used against him.
Loyd’s first mistake was his decision to represent himself. He is facing the most serious felony charges and thinks he can represent himself. It seems clear from the video footage of the courtroom scene that Loyd has no appreciation for the severity of the charges.
The second huge mistake he made was talking. If he was going to represent himself, the less said the better. The Judge asked him a few direct questions which he could have answered directly without giving further comment. Yet, he chose to swear and talk openly about the case. All of this will be used against him.
Finally, he swore at the Judge. That’s a major mistake that anyone should know not to do under any circumstances. It can’t help him and certainly won’t make him a sympathetic witness. As he was being escorted out of the courtroom, Loyd said, “f - – – you!”
Loyd hit the jackpot today, confirming Abraham Lincoln’s quip. While we can all say we’d never act this way in court, it’s always surprising to me how many people think they can represent themselves in court. Some of the reasons for pro se defenses are understandable such as “I can’t afford a lawyer” (you are guaranteed a lawyer by law) or “I can handle this, it’s simple”. In my experience as a criminal trial lawyer, they always live to regret the decision. Criminal lawyers have relationships with all officers of the court and are experienced in dealing with the criminal justice system. We know how to gather and analyze evidence. It’s simply not a wise choice to defend yourself, if you still don’t believe me, watch the Loyd video and see for yourself.