Pro Se Defendants Pose Special Challenges - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Pro Se Defendants Pose Special Challenges

Burlington, Vermont -- May 5, 2004

Vermont's court system is facing a special challenge due to the increasing number of litigants who choose to act as their own lawyer.

That challenge was highlighted Tuesday in the Burlington District Court at the trial of a Burlington man accused of parking-ticket rage.

Lance Garrett, 43, chose to go to trial and chose to be his own lawyer on a charge of disorderly conduct.

"I didn't hire a lawyer because I did hire one one time and they didn't tell me the right information," Garrett explained.

Prosecutors claim Garrett snapped in January when Burlington parking enforcement officer Joe O'Donnell ordered Garret's car towed from a St. Paul Street space because Garrett owed $111.00 in delinquent parking fines.

O'Donnell told the jury that Garrett shoved him, cursed at him, and tried to run him over.

"I stood in front of your driver's side and then you got in your car and drove right at me and I had to jump to get out of your way," O'Donnell testified when queried by Garrett on cross-examination.

But the testimony was a small part of the two-hour trial trial.

Most of the time was taken up by Judge Ben Joseph who was forced to teach basic law lessons to Garrett.

"You have a person who already more often than not really doesn't know how to proceed. And as a judge you have to help the process proceed in fair manner," Judge Joseph told Channel 3 News.

Court officials say the number of litigants acting as their own lawyer is increasing and it poses posing special problems for judges and prosecutors.

Garrett was found guilty and was sentenced to pay a $200 fine.

He said he felt he was treated fairly by the judge,the prosecutor, and the system in general.

However, Garrett, who is African-American, said he was disappointed because there was "no one of color" on the jury.

Despite the conviction, Garrett said he would act as his own lawyer again if the opportunity arises.

Brian Joyce - Channel 3 News

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