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.
For the full story, click here
10 thoughts on “No Fool I: High School Dropout Represents Himself and Beats Murder Charge”
This is the problem with american citizens today.. They’re idiots. You KNOW he did it? because the family thought he did it? reallly? he’s living with his mother last I heard, after the case. The sister might have an axe to grind, if her brother is such a loser probably stole from her, fought with her etc. bloody clothes dna? WHERE? confession? WHERE? “oh it’s all in the first transcript” yet you don’t provide an actual link to it. You really think the prosecutors are too inept to enter that into evidence? The victim was a druggie, who knows how many other druggies come through places like that. The state didnt’ prove they knew what happened, and you all sound like idiots pretending you knew what happened. Thank goodness for a good and decent jury.
The trancript of the earlier trail had all the evidence and the insanity plea from Stewart, in which the second juors did not hear.Along with the original testimony from his sister.All the postponments then finally the right to a speedy trail in which the prosecutor claims he didnt have enough time to put together the case.They had his dna on the bloody clothes his sister gave the police and her testimony.Harold used the system to beat the system.Dont let this man put a law suit on anyone.He has already gotten away with murder,it is in the transcripts.You can find them and read for yourself at Judical/pg/county.He atmitted to the murder!!!!!!!
THATS ALL YOU KNOW ABOUT THE MURDER,HIGH SCHOOL DROP OUT.LETS DO SOME MORE RESEARCH ON THE WHOLE FAMILY AND HISTORY.I agree.He convinced hisself first,which then allowed him to convince the jurors.Scam artist.GUILTY IN THE EYES OF THE LORD.IF YOU DONT BELIEVE RESEARCH THE LIFE,STORY!!!
TRY TO TELL A LITTLE MORE ABOUT OUR HERO,HIS DRUG ADDITIONS,CRIMINAL RECORD,CHILDREN HE NEVER SUPPORTED.DIG THE DIRT UP ON THE REST OF THE FAMILY TO.THERE IS PLENTY OF IT.CANT HIDE THE TRUTH FROM GOD.
I know he did committ the crime.I am friends of the family and they know it to.They left out the part about the guy that was killed was a junkie and so was Mr.Stewart.First prosecutor did not work hard enough because the case was there and they let him get away with murder.Maybe because the guy was a junkie his life wasnt worth as much.Most addicts are convincing/manipulting.Dont think you seen the last of Mr.Stwart, his habits reveal themselves from his past.So no I give him no glory.A coward, not to be man enough to stand up and be accountable for his actions.Must of been some inside payoffs,check it out and I am sure it wont be hard to trail.Every Dog has his day.Could happen toone of their family members then how would they feel.HIPOCRITTS!
I’m aware of the difficulties faced by anyone who decides to represent himself, and that self-representation isn’t for everyone. In fact, many may not have the ability to do this at all. That being said, why should any defendant, who knows he is innocent of the charges against him, be forced to plead guilty simply because he got stuck with an attorney who made it clear he would NOT fight hard for his client at trial? That seems to have been what happened in Mr. Stewart’s case, so he honestly felt he had no choice BUT to represent himself.
Thanks, Sarah. Of course, there have been many disasters such as Colin Fergusan’s self-representation in the Long Island train massacre. It is a difficult path for both defendants and courts to take. Many of Stewart’s objections were criticized as incomprehensible or irrelevant. However, he was able to point out some evidentiary gaps — particularly with regard to the time of the attack. He was also assisted by the fact that his sister did not give as damaging testimony in the second trial as she did the first trial.
JT, I can’t thank you enough for publishing this story! While it is always preferable that every criminal defendant have an effective and (even better) zealous defense attorney try their case, it is also a known fact that those without the funds to hire such zealous counsel often get barely-adequate representation. And I also question the old saying that “anyone who represents himself has a fool for a client.” While this is no doubt true in most cases, it doesn’t necessarily apply to ALL people. It obviously didn’t apply to this high school dropout client either.
This is also why I strongly believe that EVERY citizen should make it a priority to learn as much about the law in general and criminal law in particular. This is one more real-life illustration that being falsely or mistakenly accused of murder or other heinous crime CAN happen to anyone. Mr. Stewart was very lucky that he was allowed to represent himself, as is his constitutional right, instead of having an attorney forced on him who may not be looking out for his client’s best interests. Some are denied that right, if the defendant appears to “know too much” about the law and how it works.
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