What happens when criminals represent themselves in court?

Credits: Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun / QMI Agency


TORONTO — Walter Garrick, Angel Jones, Lawrence Brown and William Imona-Russell are strikingly-different characters, but they share one thing in common — they all chose to represent themselves at criminal trials.

And they were all convicted.
While defendants are guaranteed the right to defend themselves in front of a jury of their peers, the list of those who have failed to sway a jury to seeing things their way instead of the prosecution's is a long one — and for good reason, says a lawyer who has argued on both sides of criminal trials.

"Self-represented people lack the knowledge on how to do a proper cross-examination," aid Peter Dotsikas, a veteran defence lawyer of 14 years and a former Crown Attorney for eight years. "They won't know what to ask or how to ask a question that will advance their theory, or present their account of events in order to contradict the prosecution's premise."

Garrick, 42,  is a self-styled businessman who allegedly fleeced Argos legend Michael "Pinball" Clemons and Grey Cup hero Damon Allen and others. He was convicted of defrauding three men in Milton, Ont., earlier this year, using similar tactics on those victims as he allegedly used on Clemons and company, and was sentenced to a 13-month conditional sentence. Justice David McCombs is reserving judgment on his latest fraud trial until Dec. 19.

Jones is a "psychopathic thug" who chewed off his girlfriend's nose and permanently disfigured her and is now serving an indefinite prison sentence. Justice Eugene Ewaschuk said in 2007 that Jones "destroyed (his victim's) attractiveness and murdered her personality" when he declared Jones, now 35, a dangerous offender.

Brown, an aspiring rapper, is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder in the infamous murder of Georgina "Vivi" Leimonis at the Just Desserts diner in Toronto April 1994.

Refugee William Imona-Russel, now 38, is serving a life sentence for after being convicted two years ago of first-degree murder in the July 2006 sex slaying of Yasmin Ashareh — a 20-yer-old Somalian immigrant who was working to become a social worker.

"Lawyers are skilled at getting Crown witnesses to respond in a way that corroborates their client's version of events," Dotsikas said.

"If you are representing yourself, you will need to get witnesses for the Crown to agree with your account of what happened by cross-examination, which is not an easy feat for someone who isn't a lawyer to do.”

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