A California Criminal Defendant Who Handled His Own Defense Shows Why That’s Often Not a Good Idea

courtroomAt a trial’s end, a defendant is either guilty or not guilty. Ultimately, there is no difference between a defendant who avoids a conviction because key evidence was thrown out due to an illegal search versus someone who is declared not guilty by a jury. Based on these things, one thing that is wise, when facing charges, is to retain a knowledgeable San Francisco criminal defense attorney who can do everything they can to protect your rights to the fullest extent of the law, whether those arguments are factual or legal/procedural.

One thing you should not do, however, is to fire an attorney who is making an intelligent and potentially successfully procedural argument on your behalf so that you can represent yourself and make an outlandish factual argument instead. This brings us to the case of Izell from San Rafael, as reported by sfgate.com. Izell was on trial for forcible rape. The alleged rape took place in the summer of 2017 at Bay Club Marin, where the accused man worked. The accuser was a woman who was an acquaintance of the accused and worked near the club.

In the beginning of the case, Izell had counsel. The accused’s attorney, upon reviewing all of the information, discovered a flaw in the prosecution’s case, which is what good criminal defense attorneys do. Originally, the alleged victim told law enforcement that Izell raped her on July 27. The state obtained a search warrant that allowed them to access certain surveillance video footage and some of Izell’s Snapchat messages, based on a search warrant that had the July 27 date on it. Later, though, the alleged victim declared that the rape happened on July 13, rather than July 27.

This information mattered a great deal because of the search warrant. The constitution protection against unreasonable searches and seizures contains many facets. One of those is that, in order to be valid, a search warrant must state what may be searched and seized, and it must state it with specificity and accuracy. If the police took video and Snapchat messages from July 27, but the alleged victim did not even allege that any crime occurred on July 27, that could make the warrant useless and anything seized under its authority not admissible as evidence.

This was the basis of Izell’s attorney’s argument. He intended to argue that the search warrant was useless. Since the video and Snapchat evidence the police seized was key to the state’s case, he also intended to seek a dismissal of the charges, sfgate.com reported.

Before that happened, though, the defendant fired his attorney and announced his intent to represent himself. The judge in the case declared that this was “a terrible idea.” However, the legal right to represent oneself at trial is strong, so the judge allowed the man to go forward without counsel. The accused man apparently abandoned that search warrant argument, instead going in a different direction. According to sfgate.com, Izell argued that he could not possibly have committed the alleged rape because he was “a good-looking guy,” and the alleged victim weighed “300 pounds.”

This argument is potentially filled with peril. Many jurors understand that rape is about power and control, rather than sex, meaning that a defense based heavily (or even solely) upon attempting to create a reasonable doubt by focusing on the relative sexual attractiveness of the accuser and the accused may not be a persuasive one.

The case is still ongoing. If he is convicted on the rape charge, Izell could spend eight years in prison.

Understanding what it takes, legally, factually, and procedurally, to put together a winning defense presentation is what criminal defense attorneys do. To make sure that you have the strong and reliable defense you need, contact the experienced San Francisco criminal defense lawyers at Uthman Law Office. Our team has been providing quality representation to our criminal defense clients for many years. Attorney David Uthman has over 20 years of experience as a litigation attorney and almost a decade of experience as a police officer. Put our knowledge of the law and the system to work for you. Call us today at (415) 556-9200 to schedule your FREE initial consultation to get the help you need.

More blog posts:

How Very Small Details Can Potentially Make a Very Big Difference in Your California Criminal Case, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer Blog, April 6, 2018

How a Lack of ‘Free and Voluntary’ Consent Can Help You Get Your Blood Test Results Thrown Out of Your California DUI Case, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer Blog, Feb. 27, 2018

Photo Credit: 12019, [CC0 License], via Pixabay