The man accused in the October 2011 murder of 14-year-old Kelli O’Laughlin in her Indian Head Park home has been granted the right to serve as his own lawyer as the case proceeds towards a likely trial.
John L. Wilson was granted a pro se motion on Dec. 19 by presiding judge John Hynes. A public defender has been appointed as stand-by counsel only.
Defendants have the right to represent themselves even against their own self-interest, said Pat Reardon, first assistant public defender for Cook County, and no one can stop them from exercising that right. But lawyers tend to think it’s a bad call.
“Frankly, from the view of the public defender, it’s a nightmare,” Reardon said. “There’s an old saying that a person who has himself for a lawyer has a fool for a client… [Stand-by counsel] is a very difficult role, and one that our lawyers don’t usually like to assume.”
Stand-by attorneys may only advise their clients on procedural matters—when to stand, sit, speak, etc.—and may not give advice, or draft or file motions, explained Reardon. “We’re supposed to sit there quietly… It’s an awkward position for a lawyer.”
Judge Hynes had previously told Wilson that, “I strongly urge you to accept the appointment of a public defender.”
The case is still in the pre-trial phase; the next hearing is on Feb. 6. The Public Defender’s Office said that several motions filed by Wilson will be discussed, including one to force the state to release to him discovery typically disclosed only to an attorney, and another to remove the manacles from his wrists in the courtroom.
Wilson fired pro bono attorneys John P. Carroll and Michelle Gonzalez in May and filed his pro se motion. He later accepted the services of Cook County Public Defender David McMahon, who can no longer advise him due to the motion being granted.
"It's insane for a person not to have an attorney," Carroll told Patch in May. "That's like asking me to rebuild my own car engine."
According to Cook mental-health evaluator Dr. Peter Lourgos, Wilson’s erratic behavior—including answering “no” to nearly all questions in court, refusing exams and at one point shoving feces under a door—constitutes “a blatant attempt to provide inaccurate information and are clearly manipulative.”
"Mr. Wilson currently is not suffering from mental illness that would compromise his understanding of court procedure or his assistance in his own defense,” added fellow evaluator Dr. Susan Messina.
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