Man's request to forgo lawyer at trial denied

May 06, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

A Howard Circuit Court judge denied a request yesterday from a Baltimore man who wants to represent himself at his trial on murder charges in the April 1993 slaying of his girlfriend.

Marvin Philander Smith, 35, told Judge Cornelius Sybert Jr. that he is unhappy with the way his public defender is representing him and would rather handle his own case.

But Judge Sybert denied the request, telling Mr. Smith that the charges are too serious and the case is too complex for him to stand trial without representation by a lawyer.

"In my opinion, it would be absolutely foolish to go forward without counsel," Judge Sybert told Mr. Smith. "I'm doing this because I think it's best for your interest."

Mr. Smith told Judge Sybert that his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Daniel Shemer, has not subpoenaed several witnesses who he believes will help his case.

Some of those witnesses include DNA experts who have already been subpoenaed by the prosecution.

Mr. Shemer said he is willing to stay with the case, but will abide by Mr. Smith's decision and withdraw his representation if the court agrees to his client's decision.

Judge Sybert said he hopes Mr. Smith and Mr. Shemer can work out their differences before his trial in September. Another hearing on the issue has been scheduled for June 28.

Mr. Shemer is the third public defender to represent Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree murder.

He is charged in the beating death of 38-year-old Vanessa Armstead, a Baltimore woman whose body was discovered floating in the shallow waters of the Rocky Gorge Reservoir in Scaggsville by fishermen on April 13, 1993. The defendant told police after Ms. Armstead was reported missing that he last saw the woman when they drove to a Baltimore liquor store in her 1977 Ford station wagon.

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