More on trial defending themselves

Feb. 1, 2010 at 7:22 PM
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PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- A New Jersey man charged in the death of a Rutgers University student will defend himself in court, an increasingly common but risky move, experts say.

Troy Whye, 39, is accused of stabbing 23-year-old Krystal Skinner to death in March 2008 in the apartment they shared in Lindenwold, N.J., The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday.

Judges usually discourage defendants from representing themselves but cannot forbid the practice if the defendant is competent and makes the decision voluntarily, the Inquirer said.

"Defendants who do represent themselves, they do a terrible job, and they greatly increase their likelihood of being convicted," Rutgers University-Camden law professor Russell Coombs said. "They are more likely to make mistakes than even a bad lawyer."

Dale Jones, a New Jersey public defender, estimated there were between 100 and 150 cases of a defendant acting as his own counsel in the state in 2009, the Inquirer said.

He discourages self-representation.

"It's like a person who has not gone to medical school performing surgery," Jones said. "They simply don't understand why legal decisions are made."

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