St. of Arizona versus John C. Stuart
Maricopa Co. Superior Court (downtown)
Monday, January 25, 2009
Second Degree Murder Trial
Synopsis (see links)
Monday, January 25 , 2010 was the final pre-trial conference before John Stuart's scheduled February 1st trial start. However the trial was not going to take place.
On Jan. 15, 2010 there was a motion by defense council, Public Defender John Johnson, to withdraw from the case (because John Stuart had filed suit against him in both Arizona and federal court (the latter under a civil rights 42USC1983 violation) essentially of not representing him to his fullest ability but rather conspiring with Judge Paul McMurdie amongst many other things in trying to get him declared incompetent to stand trial. I did not believe Mr. Stuart when he broached me with this particular conspiracy at the time. After this hearing I do now.
I went into this hearing expecting both the defense council and the judge to recuse themselves. How can they be impartial when they are being sued by the defendant --- though at some point this is a problem, as a defendant could always put off a trial by repeatedly suing the judge and/or his defense attorney(s)?
This hearing was not exclusively for John Stuart. There were over a dozen others awaiting Judge McMurdie at 8:30 that morning. Mr. Stuart's case was scheduled sixth. So I watched case after case, including a very good defense lawyer complicate the state's case against his client. After this third case, Mr. Stuart got up and left the galley -- to go to the bathroom -- and I watched the judge's eyes follow Mr. Stuart out of the courtroom. The judge then said that since Mr. Johnson (Stuart's court appointed defense attorney) had been waiting so long this morning he would take his case next. Mad scramble to get Mr. Stuart back in the courtroom.
Once back in the courtroom Mr. Stuart remained standing -- as is his custom -- behind the bar in the galley rather than along side "his" defense attorney.
John Stuart and the judge had a exchange as to whether the judge was going to be following the rules of the Arizona Supreme Court or his own rules? The judge said he followed ALL of the rules of the Supreme Court in his courtroom, and that would be the case in his trial.
Mr. Stuart brought up Rule 6.3 (a) and (c):
a. Notice of Appearance.At his or her first appearance in any court on behalf of a defendant, an attorney, whether privately retained or appointed by the court, shall file a notice of appearance on a form provided by the clerk of the court.
c. Duty Upon Withdrawal. No attorney shall be permitted to withdraw after a case has been set for trial except upon motion accompanied by the name and address of another attorney, together with a signed statement by the substituting attorney that he or she is advised of the trial date and will be prepared for trial. Appointed counsel may withdraw after the arraignment on the grounds of his or her client's ineligibility only upon a showing that withdrawal will not disrupt the orderly processing of the case.
Another interesting exchange was the statement by the judge to Mr. Stuart that the judge would take Mr. Johnson's word as the truth -- because Mr. Johnson was on officer of the court -- and that proof was not necessary when we had Mr. Johnson's word. The mere claim that Mr. Johnson had indeed filed the appropriate paperwork was sufficient to move along without providing the proof. How very convenient.
There were some more exchanges, including a Rule 11 inquiry (mental competency of dependent) in which Stuart said the issue was moot because an attorney had not been appointed.
The judge them moved on to Defense Attorney's motion to withdraw. The judge did not want him to withdraw and spent about 20 minutes trying to keep him from withdrawing. The reason Mr. Johnson gave for his request for withdraw was the lawsuit Mr. Stuart had filed against him.
The judge said he too was a party to this lawsuit, and certainly Mr. Johnson's lawyer had told him what his lawyer had informed him of, namely this lawsuit had no merit and would be tossed out of the courts. Mr. Johnson replied that his attorney in fact DID NOT so inform him that the lawsuit was frivolous and without merit. Gosh, I would have loved to know what Mr. Johnson's lawyer told him;-)
The judge later dropped this bombshell. In his opinion, "Mr. Stuart is not mentally competent to try this case." Mr. Stuart's court appointed defense council, Mr. Johnson jumped to say he shared the judge's viewpoint in this regard. And he added that one of Mr. Stuart's court appointed psychologist's determined that Mr. Stuart suffered some kind of unnamed psychosis. [This is what the psychologist claimed: 'Mr. Stuart may suffer from a disorder that renders in him a compulsion to filing forms with the court.']
Mr. Johnson went on to add that if only Mr. Stuart would cooperate with further evaluation by this psychologist the root of his dementia might be uncovered. Yes, if only Mr. Stuart would cooperate -- that is the issue isn't it? If only he would assist in his conviction. The other two court appointed psychiatrists who did not find any sort of imaginary disorder and declared Mr. Stuart competent for trial were not brought up. Even the psychologist who brought up this imaginary disorder declared Stuart competent to stand trial under the meaning of the law.
The only time Ms. Susie Charbel, the Maricopa County prosecutor, was asked anything was her opinion on Mr. Stuart's competence. She stated Mr. Stuart had demonstrated throughout his knowledge of law, procedure and had well articulated himself including today. She knew of no evidence Mr. Stuart did not understand the nature of the charges against him, nor could not assist in his own defense. I was confused --- I thought Mr. Johnson was the court appointed defense council.
Mr. Stuart interrupts the judge at some point -- frankly not being able to tell when the judge had ceased making a comment -- and the judge threatened him with contempt and arrest if he interrupted him again. The judge said he would not discuss either Rule 6.3 or 6.1 (right to counsel or to waive counsel). He then asked Stuart did he want a lawyer or to represent himself (with clearly no discussion allowed unless he wanted to be hold in contempt)? After a long pause, Mr. Stuart replied he was unprepared to give the judge an answer on that at this time. I don't blame Stuart, I had a bunch of questions too.
The judge said that was the first thing Mr. Stuart had said today that he understood.
He went on to rule Mr. Johnson was relieved of further responsibility in this case. He ordered a new public defender be appointed until such time as Mr. Stuart made his decision as to whether to have a lawyer represent him, or to represent himself. He strongly suggested Mr. Stuart meet with this new public defender and then decide.
The judge then recused himself.
So the judge tries to get the defense council to stay on, and then recuses himself for the same reason!? Come on!
Ostensibly a new court date of Feb. 26 at 8:30a.m. was set for a new judge (in a new Division?). We will see.
And for those keeping count this makes two judges and four defense lawyers whom have withdrawn from this case. And another half dozen judges he has passed in front of.