Earlier this week, a federal judge ruled that a convicted pedophile, Joseph Edward Duncan III, who kidnapped and murdered an Idaho child in 2005, will be allowed to represent himself at his death penalty sentencing hearing. Earlier this year, Duncan dumped his legal team in favor of representing himself because he said “his attorneys couldn’t ethically represent his ‘ideologies,’” though he offered no further explanation as what they may be.
As part of his consideration of Duncan’s ability to represent himself, the federal judge helming the case reportedly questioned the killer repeatedly about his wishes and asked him “if he had any reservations about representing himself.” Apparently misunderstanding the question as a challenge to prove himself a master of understatement, Duncan replied “I’m not a perfect person, and I make mistakes sometimes. My only reservation is that I’m a human being.” After ordering a subsequent series of mental health evaluations on Duncan, the judge ruled that the convict is indeed mentally competent to rep himself in the sentencing phase of the case. He explained, “Based upon your representation to the court, your education and the finding that I made last week, you do have a 6th Amendment right to represent yourself. You’re competent to make that decision.”
Though we dare not question the wisdom of a federal judge, the ruling does raise the question, Really, your Honor? It’s been a while since we took Crim Pro, but do you really think this guy is competent to make eye contact with another human being, no less represent himself in a court of law? Although you know what, fine. Maybe we’re just overreacting—it’s not like it’s a life or death situation or anything. [CNN]