Has defendant hurt his case by defending himself?

February 28, 2013
Mark McCallum holds up an exhibit as he addresses the honorable Judge Richard I. Cooper during his trial today at the Mason County Courthouse. To his right is his attorney David Glancy and to his left is Mason County Prosecuter Paul Spaniola.

Mark McCallum holds up an exhibit as he addresses the honorable Judge Richard I. Cooper during his trial today at the Mason County Courthouse. To his right is his attorney David Glancy and to his left is Mason County Prosecuter Paul Spaniola.

Analysis by Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — The kidnapping trial of Mark McCallum is now in its fourth day of testimony. McCallum is accused of taking his then 4- and 2-year-old children out of state in February 2012 while he and his then-wife, Sharon Kludy, were separated and going through a divorce. Kludy had custody of the children through the separation. McCallum has chosen to defend himself in the 51st Circuit Court trial, but has that been a wise choice?

McCallum’s defense is that Sharon was abusive to the children and that he took them out of state to safeguard them. He made complaints to Child Protective Services, which along with the Michigan State Police, investigated the allegations. The allegations were inconclusive. The children did have bruises, but there wasn’t evidence of abuse. Besides, Sharon is not on trial, Mark is.

Mark McCallum has chosen to represent himself in the trial. At risk is a court sentence of a maximum of 15 years in prison. He has been assigned the counsel of public defender David Glancy, but McCallum, during the trial, has been adversarial towards Glancy. Quite often McCallum has gone off course or started to throw testimony into a line of questioning (counsel is only to ask questions of a witness, not testify). Glancy very often has to whisper advise into the defendant’s ear, typically to no avail.

Certainly a person has the constitutional right to defend oneself. A person has the right to legal counsel. If they cannot afford legal counsel, a lawyer will be appointed at no cost to the defendant. This defendant should have taken the option of being assigned counsel.

Judge Cooper is a very patient and gentle man. He treats defendants with respect and dignity. Sitting in court yesterday, it was obvious the judge’s patience were wearing thin. Throughout the trial the jury has had to be dismissed so Prosecutor Paul Spanioloa, Judge Cooper and Mr. Glancy can offer in-the-field legal training to Mr. McCallum. Today, the judge finally informed McCallum that he was on the edge of losing his right to represent himself.

Our correspondent Lisa Enos said Cooper did not really give a dissertation of why McCallum was about to lose that right, but it was pretty obvious that the trial has dragged on longer than it would have had a professional lawyer been defending McCallum.

In speaking with a lawyer not associated with this case, he said McCallum has most likely decreased his chances of winning the case because he has chosen to defend himself. In fact, I have spoken with a couple lawyers about this and each one has said the case usually never ends in favor of the defendant when they choose that option.

 

 

 

 

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