Accused killer wants lawyer fired - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Accused killer wants lawyer fired

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Jose Pazos Jose Pazos
Kathleen Smith Kathleen Smith

The homeless man accused of killing Burlington social worker Kathleen Smith in 2010 wants his lawyer fired. "My feelings are not against the profession. Any other lawyer could work," said Jose Pazos during a court hearing.

Police say Pazos tied Smith up and slit her throat with a hunting knife -- his killing motivated by a grudge.  Two years after her death David Sleigh is now the third attorney Pazos says he doesn't trust.  And Smith's family is left waiting for justice while these legal arguments play out in court.

"I am aware that Mr. Pazos doesn't want me to pursue the strategy that I am," Sleigh said in court.

Sleigh believes his client is incompetent to stand trial and hired a mental health expert to evaluate the drifter. The doctor for the defense concluded that Pazos is mentally ill and therefore not competent.  Prosecutors then hired their own expert to re-interview the accused murderer. The state's doctor said Pazos is competent to stand trial but diagnosed him with persecutory delusions, or the unwarranted fears that others are out to get him.

"I see this as a garden variety competency dispute that's governed by the statute," Sleigh said.

This is normally when the court would call for a competency hearing and let the mental health experts battle their theories out. But in an unusual twist, the person at the center of their debate is fighting his own defense. Pazos claims he is not mentally ill and does not want any lawyer using his sanity as a defense. "If no attorney can be found, I'm willing to represent myself," he said.

The state also wants Sleigh removed from the case. So it's up to the judge to decide whether assigning Pazos a new lawyer will make any difference.  After that ruling, a competency hearing will likely be scheduled.  If Pazos is found to be competent at the hearing, he will then be able to represent himself, or stop a lawyer from using the insanity defense.

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