Typically, when individuals opt to represent themselves in court, it doesn't end well. Even when lawyers try to represent themselves, it usually ends badly.
But for one Philadelphia man, who opted to represent himself on murder charges while facing a life sentence, his success will likely go down in history. Hassan Bennett was charged with murder in 2006, and four trials and one appeal later, he has finally secured an acquittal. Notably, Bennett was represented for his first two trials, and his appeal. But in his third and fourth trials, he opted to represent himself, and after one mistrial, was able to sway the jury while wearing his prison-blues.
It was alleged that Hassan and two others murdered one man, and shot another multiple times. Allegedly, Hassan was motivated to commit murder because he lost $20 in a dice game. However, he explained that he wasn't involved, and was inside his home, on the phone, when he heard the gunshots out on the street. The two other suspects initially testified against Hassan, but it was later revealed that they were both intimidated or coerced into testifying against Hassan by a detective who was later discovered to have engaged in a pattern of coercing false confessions and statements out of suspects.
Unfortunately for Hassan, the information about the bad cop wasn't available when he was initially convicted, and his attorney failed to secure the records and witness to prove that Hassan's alibi was legit. Hassan spent 13 years in jail before he was able to secure his release. And to his credit, he did such a good job presenting his case on the fourth trial, that the jury returned a not guilty verdict in less than an hour and a half.
The Exception, Not the Rule
It should be recognized that Hassan's success in representing himself is the exception to the rule that nearly every lawyer has been taught: The man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.
Hassan spent as much time as possible studying the law, legal procedure, and his case. Also, he had the benefit of seeing the first two trials before deciding to represent himself. Additionally, while Hassan presented his own case, he did have an attorney in his corner in court to assist if needed.