DANVILLE - Despite warnings from Vermilion County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Fahey, accused murderer Joshua Kruger insisted at a hearing Friday morning that he represent himself at his trial next month.
?I am telling you that you are doing it at your own peril,? Fahey said after an outburst by Kruger, who told the judge he did not want Vermilion County Public Defender Robert McIntire representing him.
Kruger faces charges of first-degree murder, home invasion, residential burglary and attempted robbery in the July 1999 beating death of Peter Godels, 82, of Westville. His trial is scheduled for Feb. 5 in Vermilion County Circuit Court.
During Friday's hearing, McIntire filed a motion, which was subsequently allowed by Fahey, asking the court to grant a continuance to process additional evidence.
McIntire also had filed a motion asking the judge to consider appointing co-counsel, another attorney to assist him with Kruger's defense. Kruger has said in recent months during previous hearings that he does not want McIntire representing him. Kruger has not cooperated with McIntire, arguing with him in court and even yelling at him outside the courtroom, following another hearing earlier in the week.
Fahey said during Friday's hearing that he was prepared to appoint co-counsel, a former defender from McIntire's office, who had agreed to work on the case. But Kruger cut in, saying that he wanted the judge to consider his request for pro se representation, meaning handling his own defense without an attorney, which a defendant has the right to do.
Ultimately, Kruger wanted the judge to appoint another attorney in McIntire's place, but Fahey said McIntire has been representing him well and is a capable attorney.
Fahey told Kruger that he has the right to an attorney, but he does not have the right to pick his attorney, unless he hired a private attorney. Kruger responded that he also has the right to pro se representation, and Fahey warned him that the case is going to be very technical and complex, requiring a defender with knowledge of such legal matters.
But Kruger began insisting that he be allowed to represent himself.
?I object to all the motions McIntire filed,? he said. ?I didn't tell him to do that. I don't want a continuance. This isn't a game, this is my life.?
Fahey explained to Kruger that if he chooses pro se, he would be representing himself without the assistance of anyone.
?In this court's opinion, the defendant is making a tremendous mistake,? Fahey said. ?I suspect he has no idea what he's doing.?
Again, Kruger insisted he would represent himself.
?I don't want Mr. McIntire representing me at all,? he said.
Fahey again asked Kruger if he understood what he was doing. Kruger answered that he did.
That change, Fahey said, renders moot the motion he had granted earlier in the hearing for a continuance in the case since it was made by McIntire.
Kruger said he wanted his trial to proceed on Feb. 5. Fahey instructed Kruger, who is being held at the Vermilion County Jail on $500,000 bond, to put in writing what he would need in the way of resources to do legal research in preparation for his trial.
Kruger has filed a handful of motions on his own behalf since February 2002, when Vermilion County Sheriff's authorities took him back into custody. He has been held in isolation at the jail since then, and Kruger has filed motions requesting that the court order sheriff's authorities to take him out of isolation, but those motions have been denied. Kruger has since filed a motion in federal court, asking that he be taken out of isolation.
Kruger has been in isolation since he fled the state in an attempt to avoid being taken back into custody by sheriff's authorities. Kruger was not behind bars at that time, because of a chain of events that began in November 2000 when his case first came to trial in Vermilion County Circuit Court.
At that time, Kruger was serving a prison sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections in a separate case as his murder case was coming to trial.
The state was seeking the death penalty, so the court had appointed a private attorney with death penalty experience, Richard Doyle, to represent Kruger. Doyle was assisted by then-public-defender Baku Patel. That trial ended in an acquittal that was appealed by the state's attorney's office, and the acquittal was eventually overturned by the Illinois Appellate Court.
But while the acquittal was on appeal, Kruger was released on parole by the department of corrections. Fahey ruled that the court had no reason to hold Kruger at the county jail while the case was on appeal. Kruger was released, and later fled the state when the appellate court handed down its decision overturning the acquittal.
Sheriff's authorities found and arrested Kruger in Indianapolis and brought him back to the county jail, where he has been awaiting trial. Since then, the state decided not to seek the death penalty, so Doyle and Patel can no longer represent Kruger, and McIntire inherited the case as the public defender.