Explainer: Chinese woman arrested at Trump's Mar-a-Lago takes unusual legal path




  • In US
  • 2019-06-12 20:02:42Z
  • By By Brendan Pierson
Explainer: Chinese woman arrested at Trump
Explainer: Chinese woman arrested at Trump's Mar-a-Lago takes unusual legal path  

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) - A Chinese woman charged in March with lying to get into U.S. President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort while carrying multiple electronic devices, has decided to act as her own lawyer.

Yujing Zhang is charged with making false statements to a federal officer and entering or remaining in a restricted area, in an incident that raised concerns about security at the Palm Beach, Florida club.

U.S. District Judge Roy Altman in Fort Lauderdale, Florida signed off on Zhang's decision at a hearing on Tuesday, finding her mentally competent to represent herself, though he ordered that the public defenders initially assigned to her remain on standby in case she has questions or changes her mind.

Zhang's choice is unusual, but not unprecedented. Criminal defendants in the United States are guaranteed a court-appointed lawyer if they cannot afford to hire their own, but the justice system has a set of rules for defendants who refuse that offer, as well.


CAN YOU REPRESENT YOURSELF?

Criminal defendants generally have a right to represent themselves at trial. In 1975, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case Faretta v. California that the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution gives the defendants the right to act as their own lawyers. The decision reversed a California state court's ruling that Anthony Faretta, a man accused of grand theft, had no such right.

The right to self-representation has limits, however. Under the standards laid out in the Faretta ruling and later cases, a defendant must fully understand his or her decision to proceed without a lawyer. The hearing Altman held Tuesday was a so-called Faretta hearing, in which he asked Zhang whether she understands every step of the trial process, which include choosing a jury, the rules that govern admitting evidence and the procedures for making objections.


WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS TO BE YOUR OWN LAWYER?

The defendant must be found not to have any serious mental health issues. On that score, Altman took the word of Zhang's public defenders, who said in a June 6 court filing that their client had no serious issues.

Under Faretta, judges must also warn defendants strongly against representing themselves. Defendants must be told that they will be expected to follow all the rules and procedures of the court and that no special allowances will be made for their lack of legal training.

Defendants who nonetheless press on without a lawyer must be allowed access to legal resources to prepare their defense. That could mean access to a prison law library, though in Zhang's case, Altman ordered her former lawyers to give her law books to help prepare.


WHO ELSE HAS BEEN THEIR OWN LAWYER?

Though it is very rare for defendants to represent themselves in criminal cases, there have been several high-profile examples. John Allen Muhammad, the "Beltway sniper" behind a series of murders in the Washington area in 2002, and Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who carried out a deadly mass shooting in a church in North Carolina, both began their trials representing themselves, though both later changed their mind and brought in defense lawyers. Both were convicted and sentenced to death.


(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

COMMENTS

More Related News

US restores some aid but vows no more without migrant action
US restores some aid but vows no more without migrant action

The Trump administration said Monday it is easing previously announced cuts in hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Central American nations of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala but will not allow new funding until those countries do more to reduce migrant flows to the United States. The State Department said that after a review of more than $600 million in assistance that President Donald Trump ordered in March to be cut entirely, it would go ahead with about $400 million in projects and grants that had been previously approved.

Pompeo tries rallying foreign leaders in alleged oil attacks
Pompeo tries rallying foreign leaders in alleged oil attacks

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is reaching out to wary foreign leaders to frame alleged Iranian attacks in a Middle East oil shipping route as a problem for the world at large, especially for Asian countries vitally dependent on that oil. Pompeo, in a series of Sunday television interviews, emphasized the U.S. international outreach in the wake of what the U.S. says were Iranian attacks Thursday on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz . The world needs to unite," Pompeo said.

Trump to Stephanopoulos:
Trump to Stephanopoulos: 'I Like the Truth,' I Didn't Sit for Mueller Interview Because He'd 'Get Us for Lies'

President Trump appeared to be obsessed with the Mueller report during his wide-ranging interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, insisting that he read the special counsel's report while repeatedly claiming it says there was "no collusion" despite Robert Mueller stating specifically that no determination was reached on the concept of collusion.While speaking to Stephanopoulos in the back of the president's limousine, the president was asked what his pitch to swing voters "on the fence" would be, prompting Trump to quickly pivot to the Russia investigation, which he called a "phony witch hunt.""Mueller comes out-there's no collusion," the president declared. "And essentially a...

Times
Times' Russia report is 'virtual treason,' Trump says

US President Donald Trump on Saturday accused The New York Times of "a virtual act of treason," after it reported the US is stepping up digital incursions into Russia's electric power grid. Current and former government officials have described the classified deployment of American computer

'Who is the a--hole': The congressman who missed his anniversary to keep lawmakers voting until 4 a.m.
'Who is the a--hole': The congressman who missed his anniversary to keep lawmakers voting until 4 a.m.

Rep. Chip Roy kept the House voting until 4 a.m. on Thursday as a form of protest - even though he missed his 15-year wedding anniversary.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: US

facebook
Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.