In the recent case of Warren Jeffs, the defendant exercised his right to Pro Se counsel, which is to be his own defense attorney. While this is a basic right, it seems to fly directly against another basic right- the right to effective counsel. Fortunately for the prosecutors, the right to effective counsel doesn’t mean the defendant is required to have effective counsel. As long as the judge explains the risks- which this judge did- the defendant can accept them, waiving his right to effective counsel in favor of his right to pro se counsel.
One of the privileges that comes with the right to pro se counsel is the ability to be a one-man circus. Warren Jeffs, for instance, stood in silence for nearly 30 minutes before saying, “I am at peace,” which was the whole of his closing argument. Fortunately- perhaps- Jeffs has an attorney for his sentencing hearing, since the judge wouldn’t let him remove himself physically from the proceedings while still allowing him to represent himself.
Would a team of lawyers have made a difference? It’s possible. The most damning evidence against Jeffs- the tapes and his journals- may not have been seized properly and might have been suppressed. But to say that he would have been better off with counsel could miss what Jeffs is going for.
If Warren Jeffs had hired and kept an attorney, he might have been acquitted. There might have been issues regarding his 4th Amendment rights. However, by fighting back, by fighting by the rules of the court system, he would lose some of his standing as a misunderstood religious leader. With effective counsel, Jeffs is walking free. With pro se counsel, Jeffs can be a martyr.