Of the many challenges facing trial judges, one of the greatest is conducting proceedings with a self-represented accused. Invariably the self-represented accused comes to court with only a rudimentary knowledge of the trial process, often influenced by misleading depictions from television shows and the movies. He or she is unfamiliar with the substantive law, is confused by procedural requirements, and has difficulty grasping concepts such as relevance.
The burgeoning number of self-represented accused in the criminal courts may be explained by cut-backs to legal aid funding across the country, the cost of legal services, mental health problems that make it . . . [more]