A California man charged in the double murder of two of his children wants to represent himself. Maurice Jewel Taylor Sr., 34, told a court in Los Angeles County on Tuesday that he had religious reasons for wanting to represent himself in court, and he claimed that there was a hit out on him. The judge’s response was to emphatically and repeatedly recommend the defendant keep his counsel because pro se representation was risky. Finally, the court voiced doubt about Taylor’s mental competency, and ordered an evaluation.
At the beginning of the hearing, the defense lawyer had also voiced doubt about the accused killer’s mental competency.
“I’ve taken criminal justice classes, and I know my rights,” Taylor said in court. “I’ve been seriously abused in prison. There’s a hit out for me right now that I have proof for. I literally have proof on that, and there’s a lot of foul play going on, and I would prefer to represent myself because I think that that’s the best way to go in this matter.”
The judge repeatedly pointed out in court this was a risky decision, and it would create more of a “handicap” for Taylor than an advantage. Nonetheless, Taylor insisted.
“And I trust that God would help me in this case because I am in the right,” he said, in one of several references to his faith-based reasons for seeking to represent himself.
Assuming he got his way, it would be a major decision for the defendant. This request isn’t unprecedented. Even the religious motivation sounds familiar. Law&Crime is reminded of a Georgia woman who also cited her faith in pursuing pro se representation. She never, ever put up a defense in her capital trial for murdering her 10-year-old stepdaughter. She was sentenced to death.
In any case, the claims against Taylor read like a horror story. The personal trainer allegedly decapitated two of his children. Prosecutors identified the deceased victims as son Maurice T., 12, and daughter Maliaka T., 13. Taylor is also accused of showing the bodies to his 8- and 9-year-old sons, and forcing these surviving children to stay in their bedrooms for several days without food. Prosecutors have said he faces a possible maximum sentence of 57 to life behind bars.
In court, the defendant voiced confidence that he would win. He continued to insist that there was hit on him, and that police already tried to kill him. Taylor asserted that his lawyer’s work would delay the case, putting him in more danger. Eventually, he started to cast aspersions at the judge.
“Honestly, I don’t know who is involved with the hit, if the police are going to try to kill me,” he said. “There could be a chance that you are in on it as well.”
“Well, I can assure you that I am not,” the judge said before ordering the mental health evaluation.
[Screengrab via Law&Crime Network]
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