LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky man charged with murder may be forced to represent himself because he has repeatedly fired or threatened his attorneys during the five years his case has been pending.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge McKay Chauvin says there's no precedent for requiring Percy Brown to handle his own case. But, Chauvin says it's tough finding an attorney for Brown because of his refusal to cooperate with some and threats against others.
"It is a unique, peculiar situation," Chauvin said in court earlier this year.
Attorney Matt Farra — who represents Brown on the issue of whether he will be given an attorney for trial — told WDRB-TV in Louisville (http://bit.ly/1aAtcB4 ) that taking away Brown's right to an attorney would almost assuredly lead to a reversal of the case on appeal.
Brown was charged in 2008 with a 2004 shooting that killed 19-year-old Jennifer Nicole French. The Sixth Amendment provides that "in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Erin White said Brown is trying to delay the trial as long as he can. White said the longer a case lingers, the better it is for a defendant because witnesses are less likely to be found or may forget important details.
"We don't want constitutional rights to be violated, but at some point it comes time to move on (with) the case," White said.
French's mother, Patty Bishop, called the situation a "never-ending nightmare.".
"He's finding loopholes and playing the system and the system is allowing him to do so. I'm angry with him and the system," Bishop said. "I need closure. I do."
Authorities have said French was set to testify against Brown in a fraud case. Five years later, they charged him with murder.
Farra said a review of similar national cases requires Chauvin to first warn Brown that he is jeopardizing his right to counsel if any other incidents occur and may be forced to represent himself.
"It's my position that the judge hasn't done that," Farra said.
A 2009 Kentucky Supreme Court ruling found that a defendant may only represent himself at trial after being warned "specifically of the hazards ahead." The ruling did not directly address Brown's issue — a defendant who wants an attorney but may not be given one.
Lewis Katz, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said "at a certain point, a defendant's conduct makes it impossible to fulfill that constitutional right... A judge has to be able to keep control of his courtroom."
Brown's sister, Vanessa Kelly, has said her brother is not guilty and has been locked up for more than four years awaiting trial while prosecutors and defense attorneys conspired against him.
"I know he is not guilty," she said in August. "He is not capable" of murder.
Asked about the claim that he had threatened to kill two of his lawyers, Kelly said, "That's nonsense... Where's the evidence?"
Information from: WDRB-TV, http://www.fox41.com