Erath County Jail inmate Jimmy Powell will go it alone.
Four days after Powell gave a jailhouse interview proclaiming his innocence against charges that he burglarized a home and assaulted a jailer and stated that he wanted to fire his attorney, the 21-year-old inmate got his wish.
On Monday, Judge Donald Jones agreed to dismiss Powell’s court-appointed attorney, Nick Pugh, paving the way for the defendant to represent himself. The ruling followed a hearing where the judge advised Powell against acting as his own attorney.
“I had a young man do just what you’re doing here and he went to the penitentiary for a very long time,” Jones said. “I’m telling you that it’s a mistake… but you have a constitutional right to do so.”
The judge repeatedly warned Powell of the disadvantages of representing himself in court without a trained attorney.
But Powell, who said he earned 13 hours of college credit at Weatherford Community College, said he was fully prepared to take on the challenge.
“Are you telling me you do not want an attorney to represent you in either of these cases?” Jones asked.
“Yes, your honor, I’ll represent myself,” Powell said.
Jones then asked Powell a series of legal questions. Asked if he knew about “rules of evidence,” Powell answered, “Would that be due process?”
Jones explained that rules of evidence and due process have nothing to do with each other and asked if he had any knowledge of the “code of criminal procedure.”
“I’m not sure,” Powell replied.
An interesting exchange took place when Jones asked Powell if he was familiar with the Texas Penal Code.
“Yes, I am,” Powell said.
“What do you know?” Jones asked.
“Nothing at all,” Powell answered.
At one point the judge asked Powell if he was smirking.
The defendant said he was not, but asked if it was “against the law to smile in the courtroom?”
Later, Powell said he wanted to take his case to a “higher court” because he felt like the judge had something against him.
“I want to go ahead and take this to a higher court because I already feel like you are prejudiced against me,” Powell told the judge.
Jones said he had nothing against the defendant, but was simply trying to make him aware of the risks of going to trial without an attorney.
The judge said he would appoint a standby attorney in the event that Powell changes his mind and decides he wants legal representation.
If convicted, Powell faces 2-20 years in prison for the burglary charge and 2-10 years in prison for harassment of a public servant.
SARA VANDEN BERGE covers courts, law enforcement, and business and political issues for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her work number is 968-2379, ext. 240.