There's a lot of propaganda saying "People who choose to represent themselves pro se are stupid." Is that accurate? My reaction is "If there's a lot of propaganda advising against something, then it must be a good idea (or seriously worth considering)!"
In the late 18th century, pro se legal representation was common. Anybody could work as a lawyer. Lawyers lobbied for State licensing requirements for lawyers. They made sure the law was so complicated that it was inaccessible for the average person. Things went downhill from there.
The publicly hyped cases of pro se defendants are cases where the defendant was just plain nuts, there was overwhelming evidence, and he was getting convicted anyway.
I read that, when the judge orders a competency test for a defendant, it usually is because the defendant asked to represent himself.
I researched Jack Kevorkian a little. He fired his lawyers and tried representing himself. All his previous trials had ended in mistrials. After a mistrial, the State gets a mulligan and may retry you. Also, the law was changed to more clearly define what Jack Kevorkian was doing as illegal. Perhaps his lawyers refused to present a jury nullification defense? He must have had a good reason for firing his lawyers. I couldn't find a source where he explained why.
That appears to be a common trick that the bad guys use. If someone is doing something they don't like, then they change the law to redefine such behavior as more clearly illegal. For example, E-Gold was accused of breaking laws that were passed after E-Gold started operating. Assisted suicide was a legal grey area, and it was redefined to be clearly illegal.
I found an article in favor of pro se defense.
Mossman also found that pro se defendants had some advantages in court. They had a greater opportunity, for instance, to develop a rapport with the jury, or they had access to details that helped them in cross-examinations.
This is the best argument in favor of pro se defense, *IF* you're a good public speaker. If you make a personal connection with the jury members, you'll get a more favorable result.
Suppose I was the victim in a tax resistance trial. What would my lawyer advise me to do? My lawyer would probably advise me to not testify. My lawyer would do all the speaking. I would have no opportunity to make a personal connection with the jury.
The impression I got was that lawyers who attempt to present a jury nullification defense are silenced by a judge. I don't have any firsthand experience, but I read some stories, especially in cases involving victimless crimes (tax resistance and possession of marijuana).
One argument against pro se defense is that the judge will be biased against a pro se defendant. If a lawyer makes a technical error, the judge will usually let him correct it. If a pro se defendant makes a technical error, then the judge won't let him correct it. On the other hand, if the judge acts like a jerk in front of the jury, then that creates sympathy for the defendant. If I attempt to describe jury nullification and the judge silences me, then I can validly point out to the jury that the judge is biased against me.
I can describe the principle of jury nullification better than a lawyer. I can describe the injustice of the US taxation system and monetary system better than a lawyer. If I were the victim in a taxation trial, I want to present these arguments to the jury myself.
There's also the extortion problem. Suppose I am the victim in a taxation trial. Hiring a lawyer would cost me $100k+. I don't recover that expense if I am acquitted.
However, if offered a public defender, I might use the public defender for part of the trial and represent myself for parts. Maybe you should use a lawyer for pre-trial motion filing, and then speak yourself when addressing the jury.
If you're the victim in a trial, your audience is the jury, and not the judge. If you speak directly to the jury, you may gain their sympathy, if you're good at it.
You should avoid being the victim in a trial in the first place. By the time you're in front of a judge, you've already lost. The rules and procedures in a criminal trial are heavily biased against the defendant, whether you're using a lawyer or not. There's a presumption "If you were not guilty, then you wouldn't have been indicted."
Even if you're acquitted, you don't recover the lost time. You don't get compensated for the stress of a trial. A trial is designed to last for months, extracting a toll from the defendant.
The current economic and political system is unfair. What is the optimal strategy an agorist should follow, once they find themselves the victim of State violence and the victim in a trial?
Even if I hire a lawyer, how do I know if I'm getting someone good? The few lawyers I've personally dealt with seemed like ***holes.
I'm a good public speaker. I could represent myself better than a lawyer. Will I ever be tested? I hope not. On the other hand, it would be very good publicity if I present a sui juris defense and get acquitted.
I'm really undecided what approach I should take for agorism, once I make the transition to practical agorism. Should I attempt stealth-agorism or blatant-in-public agorism? If I attempt stealth-agorism, my reach is limited. If I attempt blatant-in-public agorism, I'll attract more customers, but I will also attract the attention of the bad guys.
"Hire a lawyer" might be good advice for an average person. I'm not sure if it's good advice for me, in the specific case of a tax evasion trial or a trial for agorist activity.
I found another article about a successful pro se defendant.
The jury has natural sympathy for someone representing himself. If you try to cut him off with objections, the jury thinks you're oppressive. If you let him go, he gets in all kinds of evidence that wouldn't usually be allowed.
That's exactly my point. Suppose I explain to the jury about jury nullification, the immorality of the income tax, the immorality of the Federal Reserve, or the immorality of government regulations. If the judge or prosecutor attempt to interrupt me, that creates sympathy for me. That's exactly what I'm looking for. A lawyer would be reprimanded for presenting those arguments. If a lawyer makes that argument and is interrupted, the jury will assume it's OK. If I make that argument and am interrupted, then the jury will think the judge is biased against me.
If I find myself the victim of frivolous criminal charges, I'll probably represent myself pro se. Everyone has to make that decision for themselves. If you're the victim of frivolous criminal charges, you can't hire me to represent you, because I don't have a State license to work as a lawyer!