Collier judge denies Mesac Damas' request to represent himself in death penalty case

Mesac Damas rubs his hairline as Collier Circuit Judge Franklin Baker explains the proceedings for Damas' request to represent himself in Baker's courtroom on Friday, July 8 , 2011, in Naples.  Baker denied Damas' request to represent himself in his murder trial. Damas will continue to be represented by the public defender's office.  David Albers/Staff

Photo by DAVID ALBERS

Mesac Damas rubs his hairline as Collier Circuit Judge Franklin Baker explains the proceedings for Damas' request to represent himself in Baker's courtroom on Friday, July 8 , 2011, in Naples. Baker denied Damas' request to represent himself in his murder trial. Damas will continue to be represented by the public defender's office. David Albers/Staff

Mesac Damas's request to represent himself denied

Mesac Damas' request to represent himself is ...

— Public defenders will continue to work Mesac Damas’ death penalty case after a judge on Friday denied Damas’ request to represent himself on six first-degree homicide charges.

Addressing Damas request of self-representation, Collier Circuit Judge Franklin Baker said Friday he was “not close to being confident” that Damas understands the seriousness of his request.

“You’ve got two good lawyers. I want to keep them involved in your case,” Baker said.

When Baker repeatedly asked why Damas wanted to represent himself, Damas responded only with religious preaching. He told Baker that “God is my lawyer” and “I don’t have a case.”

Midway through the 10-minute hearing, Damas was briefly removed from the courtroom for interrupting Baker. He returned and continued to interrupt Baker, refusing to directly address Baker’s questions.

“We’re a long ways from answering any questions I had,” Baker said.

Damas was deemed competent two weeks ago to stand trial on the six homicide charges. He is accused of killing his 32-year-old wife, Guerline, and the couple’s five children in 2009 at the family’s North Naples home.

During his extradition from Haiti, Damas confessed to a Daily News reporter that he was responsible for the killings. Damas’ attorneys filed a not guilty plea in the case.

Defendants are allowed to represent themselves, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled a judge can deny that right in cases of defendants “who still suffer from severe mental illness to the point where they are not competent to conduct trial proceedings by themselves.”

Damas’ mental health has been questioned since his arrest. He has been disruptive in court and frequently responds to questions by speaking about his religious beliefs.

Two of the three psychiatrists who evaluated Damas said the 35-year-old understands the homicide charges and is capable of helping his lawyers but chooses not to. A third psychiatrist said Damas suffers from a “delusional disorder” and isn’t competent to stand trial.

One of Damas’ public defenders, Kathleen Fitzgeorge, declined comment when asked Friday whether Damas has cooperated with his lawyers.

State Attorney Steve Russell also declined comment after Baker’s ruling.

No future hearing dates were set Friday and a trial date remains undecided.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Related Links

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features