Why Stupid Criminals Should Not Use Their Right To Represent Themselves, Or As Lincoln Said, “Anyone Who Represents Himself Has A Fool For A Client.”

An appeal written on toilet paper by a self-represented inmate named Clarence Earl Gideon brought us the United State Supreme Court decision that recognized the Constitutional right to have an attorney appointed at the government’s expense. I’d be amazed to see the Supreme Court take anything written by a prison inmate on toilet paper seriously ever again.

Even though the constitutional right to represent one’s self came up later, I agree with Abraham Lincoln that it’s a dumb idea to represent yourself. Lincoln’s advice reminds me of a time when I was arrested for selling LSD to the police. Twice. Talk about stupid. Anyway, the judge, the prosecutor, and two court appointed attorneys insisted that I should have gone to prison. Many would probably agree that anyone stupid enough to sell drugs should go to prison. I disagreed, and filed my first legal document in my short-lived and quite unsuccessful career as a jail house lawyer. My motion to fire my attorney is posted below.

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By the way, my motion was granted and I was given an attorney who actually read the law and convinced the judge to send me to the California Rehabilitation Center which had a swimming pool, a bowling alley, an outdoor track, and even a tennis court. I was sent to CRC because according to California law I was “in imminent danger of becoming a drug addict.” A photograph of me in CRC with my homeboy is posted below.

Despite the fact it sounds like a country club, CRC was a very dangerous place, because it housed only about 500 of us non-violent drug addicts along with about 2500 murders, rapist, robbers, child molesters, etc. On my first day on the yard, I literally had to step around a guy who was stabbed. A few months later, a huge riot broke out due to a disagreement between an African American gentleman and a Latino gentleman over a weight bench. The prison guards broke out the shot guns and several inmates were shot during the melee. Several hours later, after they cleared the yard, we were confined to our dormitories and there were prison guards outside each dorm holding shot guns for at least a month.

CRC was no vacation, and I would not recommend it to anyone. But it was better than prison, and a lot less time. Fortunately for me I was smart enough to advocate for myself when I knew my lawyer wasn’t doing a good job, but I had enough sense not to try to represent myself. Mr. Gideon and I had that in common. The main difference between us is that Mr. Gideon was innocent.

The moral of the story is that if your best thinking got you arrested, you are probably not smart enough to outwit even the most inexperienced or stupid prosecutor, so get an attorney. Use the wits you’ve got to make sure you have decent representation and stay alive if you land in prison. By the way, don’t underestimate you public defender just because she was appointed by the court. Many public defenders are smart, dedicated, and less morally corrupt than the private attorneys who make promises they can’t keep, do no work on your case, and then force you to plead guilty. If you’re dumb enough to sell dope, at least be smart enough let an attorney represent you.

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