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Copyright (c) 1984 Howard University
Howard Law Journal

RECENT DEVELOPMENT: The Role of Standby Counsel: The Road From Faretta To Wiggins.


27 How. L.J. 1799





To those persons about to embark on their legal careers and to those seasoned in the legal profession, the desire of criminal defendants to represent themselves in the criminal process seems strange if not foolish. Indeed, Justice Blackmun in his dissenting opinion in Faretta v. California 1 quoted an old proverb by stating "one who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client." 2 Notwithstanding these appraisals of such a critical decision, criminal defendants do choose to defend themselves against the ever mighty State.

Commentators have posited several reasons why defendants choose to conduct their own defense. One such commentator remarked:

The question of why people wish to represent themselves is not easily resolved. Some have suggested that innocent individuals accused of a crime have such blind faith in their own innocence and the infallibility of justice that they will be acquitted no matter what. 3

Another reason cited for the decision to proceed pro se is that some defendants suffer from a "Perry Mason" type syndrome that clouds their understanding of the serious of their predicament. Defendant's belief that he will be totally denied a chance to represent to the trier of fact his personal plea for a favorable verdict, that no attorney will have such a personal stake in the outcome of this trial so as to adequately represent the defendant's interest, or his desire to make personal and political statements through a judicial proceeding are also reasons for the decision to conduct a ...
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