Columbus Allen wants to represent himself at murder trial

Defendant disrupts hearing, says he's firing his lawyers

02/25/2008 11:45 AM

02/25/2008 11:51 AM

The Stockton man accused of killing a California Highway Patrol officer during an early morning traffic stop two years ago told the court today he wants to represent himself at trial.

Columbus Allen Jr. II made his request during a hearing in Stanislaus County Superior Court. His lawyers were trying to schedule a series of motions as part of an effort to suppress evidence seized by investigators and move the trial to a county where potential jurors have not read about the case.

Allen’s lawyers recently persuaded the court to push the high-profile trial back from March to October, saying they need more time to defend a client who could face the death penalty if convicted.

Allen, 32, said he is upset that his request for a speedy trial has been repeatedly denied.

“I’ve been requesting a speedy trial since I entered a plea on March 16, 2006,” Allen said.

Judge Hurl Johnson said he shares Allen’s disappointment but cannot push a death penalty case to trial if the defense is not ready.

That’s where the meeting of the minds ended.

Allen repeatedly interrupted the proceedings, saying his attorneys have made lots of promises about pre-trial litigation but have filed only a handful of motions. Then he suggested that he wanted new lawyers, a request the judge has denied several times in the past.

Pretty soon, the judge and the defendant were talking over each other as defense attorneys tried to explain that they are working hard on Allen’s behalf. Eventually, the judge told Allen that he had a right to represent himself, and Allen said he would do just that.

Johnson said Allen would have to file a written motion, might want to rethink such a rash plan and should quiet down in the meantime. Allen said he would not be quiet, taunting the courtroom by saying, “Or what? Or what?”

Two bailiffs led Allen from the courtroom and Johnson said he will consider the case again on Wednesday, after Allen has a chance to simmer down.

Defendants have a right to represent themselves as long as they are competent to stand trial.

Allen is accused of shooting Officer Earl Scott during an early morning traffic stop on Feb. 17, 2006.

The investigation quickly focused on Allen, because Scott was gripping registration papers from a 1990 Nissan Maxima owned by Allen’s wife. Allen was arrested a few hours after the shooting, after he and his wife showed up at the Stockton Police Department to report that their car had been stolen.

Allen has been held without bail since then.

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