In what is being hailed as a big victory for one exonerated criminal defendant, lawyers are likely to be among the most amazed.
A Philadelphia man was just acquitted of murder, after already serving 13 years behind bars, enduring 4 criminal trials and one appeal. In the first two trials and the appeal, he was represented. But after winning his appeal on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel, he opted to be his own lawyer in the third, and then fourth trials. And surprisingly, after 81-minutes, the jury returned a verdict in his favor.
In the case of Hassan Bennett, the prosecution claimed that, in 2006, he shot one man dead, and wounded another, with two other men, after he lost $20 in a game of dice. Hassan tried to explain that he was not present at the shooting, and that he was inside and on the telephone. Notably, the two other suspects testified against Hassan.
On appeal, Hassan argued that his first attorney failed him because he never obtained the phone records or witness testimony to corroborate his story. Additionally, between the second and third trails, it was discovered that a Philadelphia detective had been found to have engaged in a pattern and practice of coercing and forcing criminal defendants to testify against each other, and the men that testified against Hassan had in fact been interrogated by that detective and coerced to testify against Hassan.
No Dice Prosecutors
While the story of one non-lawyer representing himself and eventually succeeding may be a rather rare one, it's worth noting that Hassan devoted himself for the 13 years he was incarcerated to studying the legal system, legal procedure, case law, and his own case. Additionally, he had the opportunity to see how his case was argued by an attorney on three occasions, before opting to represent himself.
Hassan stated that he is considering attending college, then law school, and really hopes to find a career helping others.