Pro se representation comes at a cost.


Few recent trials have attracted as much attention in the non-legal world than the Brooks trial in Waukesha.

Most of the comments relate to either praising the patience of Judge Dorow (much deserved) or criticizing the legal system for allowing such a circus to occur in the first place. The answer to the latter, as discussed in a previous column, is the constitutional right of a criminal defendant for self-representation.

The result, as anticipated, is that Mr. Brooks was convicted and will be sentenced to serve more years than he can possibly live.

Outside of the occasional story when appellate courts affirm the conviction, he will rot in prison while the victims and their families have to find the means to cope with the aftermath.

Still, given the attention devoted to the defendant representing himself, it seems to warrant one more column to describe my experience as a prosecutor with a pro se defendant in a felony trial.

The defendant had a long, long prior record, but they were all for minor, non-violent convictions, such as theft, burglary, more thefts and even more thefts. The case I handled involved his breaking into a building, perhaps looking for food. Typically, such a case would be easily resolved, but the defendant would not plead to anything and given his prior record, I would not dismiss it.

When he insisted on representing himself, he agreed to standby counsel. The trial judge appointed Fred Kessler, who had resigned from the bench a few months prior to run unsuccessfully for Congress.

During voir dire, the judge asked the typical question about whether any of the potential jurors had any knowledge of the prosecutor, the defendant, any of...

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