Bad Ideas, Jury Duty, Pro Se Litigants, Trials

Also, Rain Is Wet

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We love pro se litigants here at ATL. Like the guy suing Michael Vick, alleging that Vick stole his dogs and abused them, subjected him to “microwave testing,” and pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda.
Today’s pro se litigant is a defendant rather than a plaintiff. From an article warning that representing yourself can be risky (who knew?), in the Virginian-Pilot:

Charles Willis knew he was no match for the prosecutor.

Police had given him a citation for illegally parking in a fire lane at a home improvement store in Chesapeake, and the Hickory man wanted to fight it.

But on his income – he’s retired and lives on his Social Security disability check – he couldn’t afford it. So on Tuesday morning, the 58-year-old made his way to Chesapeake Circuit Court with his walking cane, armed with a briefcase filled with notes and pictures from the scene.

Like a growing number of defendants these days, Willis was going to represent himself.

Ruh-roh. We suspect this won’t end happily.
Read more, after the jump.

[Willis] had appealed a lower court conviction and asked for a trial by a jury of his peers. The infraction carried a $250 fine, and if he lost, he also had to pay the cost of the jury.

Would you really want a jury trial rather than a bench trial in a case like this? The jurors might be pissed at your wasting their time. (But not a judge, since her time would be wasted by something else if not by your case.)

Willis sat at the defense table in tennis shoes and an untucked golf shirt. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi wore a suit, bow tie and dress shoes.

Judge Norman Olitsky warned Willis, who occasionally struggled in questioning witnesses.

“I cannot be your lawyer,” the judge told him. “I cannot help you in any way.”

At one point, the prosecutor objected to Willis’ line of questioning four times in one minute. Each objection was sustained.

C’mon, Mr. Fatehi — isn’t this like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel? Why not let the guy get in a question or two? He’s going to lose no matter what.

In closing arguments, Fatehi told jurors “the evidence is clear.”

Willis was brief, standing before the jury of five women and two men.

The fire lanes, he said, are improperly marked. Customers could park there, mistakenly believing the area is a loading zone in front of the store.

“I don’t think there is any way that you can justify writing a fire lane ticket in an area that doesn’t have markings.”

The trial stretched nearly four hours. After deliberating five minutes, the jury returned with a guilty verdict and fined Willis $250.

So seven people — plus a prosecutor, a judge, and other court personnel — gave up half a day of their time for this. Ain’t trial by jury grand?
It’s risky, some say worth it, to represent yourself in court [The Virginian-Pilot]

(hidden for your protection)

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