For Joshua Monson, it appears that the court has finally run out of pencils and he has run out of lawyers. Monson has stabbed three prior lawyers with pens or pencils. Now, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge David Kurtz (left) has ruled that he has forfeited his right to counsel and must represent himself.
On Tuesday, Monson, 27, grabbed the pen being used by his defense lawyer, Jesse Cantor of Everett, Wash., and stabbed him in the head during opening statements in Monson’s felony drug trial in Washington. He was wearing an electric stun cuff and officers activated it. (For the record, I am a critic of the use of these stun belts in courts, though it proved useful in this case). He also faces charges for assaulting two corrections officers on two separate occasions at the Snohomish County Jail.”
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge David Kurtz also ordered Monson placed in a special chair with straps for the rest of the trial.
I have serious reservations about Kurtz’s orders. He is certainly on good ground to impose restrictions. However, there is a serious question of Monson’s mental capacity to stand trial. Even if he is found mentally fit to stand trial, the denial of a lawyer is that last thing that you want to do in such a case with a clearly disturbed individual. Pretending that he can represent himself will not make it so. He clearly cannot represent himself and the trial will become an even greater mockery. It is also not clear why, if you are going to restrain him, he also should be denied a lawyer.
I sympathize with the court (and really really sympathize with the lawyers), but this is not the first time such an attack has occurred. My former co-counsel in the Jim Nicholson espionage case, Jonathan Shapiro, was knocked out once by a deranged client in court. These acts result in new criminal charges and restrictions. However, to deny a lawyer is to deny the most basic element of a fair trial.
What do you think?