Killers on Trial Representing Themselves: What Do You Think?

Oct 3, 2012 11:54am
abc waseem daker loretta spencer blatz ll 121003 wblog Killers on Trial Representing Themselves: What Do You Think?

Waseem Daker questioned Lottie Spencer for hours on the stand during his murder trial last month. ( ABC News)

Imagine getting cross-examined for hours by someone who has made your life hell for more than 17  years.  That’s what Lottie Spencer endured recently  in a Georgia courtroom when Waseem Daker served as his own attorney in his trial for the murder of Spencer’s good friend Karmen Smith.

In 1996, Daker went to prison for 10 years for stalking Spencer, calling her at all hours, threatening the life of her young daughter, hiding in her bedroom and holding a gun to Spencer’s head. In 2009, Daker was arrested again, this time for the 1995 murder of Smith, and the stabbing of Smith’s then 5-year-old son, Nick Smith.

In the Smith murder trial, which concluded last week, Daker exercised his right to serve as his own attorney. He questioned Spencer, face to face, for hours when she was on the witness stand. Spencer was noticeably rattled and broke down during his cross-examination.

“It’s really inappropriate that you stalk me and harass me, and you’re sitting here asking me questions, and I have to come back with you and answer your questions, that’s hard for me,” she said, sobbing.

Daker also questioned Nick Smith, now 22. A jury last week convicted Daker of murder and, this past Monday, he was sentenced to life in prison, plus 47 years.

Other high-profile defendants who acted as their own attorneys — known as pro se representation — include serial killer Ted Bundy and Long Island Railroad shooter Colin Ferguson, who grilled his own shooting victims on the stand. Both men were also convicted. Ferguson is serving multiple life sentences while Bundy was executed in Florida. But at least one murder defendant found success in going the pro se route: In 2008, Harold Stewart, a Maryland man serving as his own lawyer, was acquitted after he’d been charged with beating a man to death.

What do you think about such defendants representing themselves at trial? Tell us how you feel about this by voting below and watch the full story on Waseem Daker on “20/20″ online now.

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