Harold J. Stewart may be a high school dropout, but he is no fool –despite that fact that he had himself for a lawyer in a first-degree murder case. Stewart not only was acquitted of all charges, but the pro se defendant had previously rejected an agreement that his defense attorney supported for a second-degree murder plea.
Stewart was accused of beating a sleeping man to death with a baseball bat. The victim, 43-year-old Derrick “Spud” Johnson, was a guest at the house where Stewart rented a room. He was struck seven times in the head and face. They had both been drinking before the July 2005 incident.
Stewart’s first trial was declared a mistrial after a juror was discovered to have little working English.
The trial in Prince George’s County was reportedly bizarre with Stewart making loads questionable of written and oral motions. The trial lasted three days.
Lawyers in Prince George’s are astonished by the result and cannot recall another such major case of a pro se defendant prevailing. For a discussion of the perils and history of self-representation, click here.
Circuit Court Judge Vincent J. Femia, a Prince George’s veteran prosecutor and judge for 47 years, noted: “It would make you wonder about the quality of the case, if a guy who knew nothing about the law could kick your ass.”
The trial prosecutors Assistant State’s Attorneys Mary K. Brennan and Dorothy Engel made no statements, but Stewart’s private defense counsel said that his former client’s motions were nothing but “gibberish.”
In a Sept. 26, 2006, letter, attorney David M. Simpson wrote: “Based on my review of the evidence, as well as the transcript of the earlier aborted trial, I strongly recommend that you consider the state’s plea offer.” Simpson refused. Stewart pulled out of the case and returned part of his retainer.
The Washington Post gave an example of such an objection/motion from Steward when a photo was not produced by the government as promised: “It didn’t exist. That’s another inconsistent act of false affirmation, which I am going to request it be recognized as actually an issue of perjury under subornation contradictory statements as to Subsection 9-101, perjury, c(1), if a person makes an oath or affirmation to two contradictory statements each of which is false is prohibited by Subsection A of this section, it is insufficient to allege and for conviction to prove that one of the statements are willfully false without specifying which one, your honor.”
Stewart appears to be ready for a repeat. He is threatening to sue in a civil action, though the possible defendants remain unclear.
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