AP NEWS

Supreme Court denies appeal from man forced to represent himself, sentenced to death

February 19, 2019

The Supreme Court denied an appeal Tuesday from a man sentenced to death after being forced to represent himself as a form of punishment for harassing his lawyers.

Tony Von Carruthers was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder and ultimately sentenced to death by a jury in Tennessee, but he appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court, arguing his Sixth Amendment right to counsel had been violated.

The trial court forced Carruthers to represent himself after he harassed and made physical threats to three different court-appointed defense attorneys. In one threat, he specifically identified the vehicle driven by one of the attorney’s daughters.

Carruthers contended none of the lawyers were adequately consulting with him and preparing for his trial. He also made it clear he did not wish to represent himself.

“I can’t represent myself. I haven’t been to law school. I don’t have a degree to practice law in your courtroom,” he said prior to the trial.

The lower court, though, found the defendant’s conduct was “part of an overall ploy on his part to delay the case forever until something happens that prevents it from being tried.”

The Tennessee Supreme Court said a defendant can implicitly waive a right to counsel when he or she engages in abuse or misconduct.

The Supreme Court declined to take the appeal without comment.

Carruthers will be the first person executed in almost a century that represented himself.