Ohio defendant represents himself in murder case

NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio (AP) – An Ohio murder suspect is representing himself in court despite not being an attorney – a rare move for a felony case in which he could face life behind bars if convicted.

Wesley “Buster” Clark, of the Uhrichsville area, was found competent to stand trial and act in his own defense, and a public defender was appointed to help him, according to The Times Reporter in New Philadelphia.

Clark, 53, is scheduled for trial in December in eastern Ohio’s Harrison County on aggravated murder and other charges in the May shooting of a 26-year-old Dennison man whose body was found off a road. Investigators haven’t publicly discussed any suspected motive for the slaying.

Clark is already behind bars for unrelated forgery and escape charges out of Tuscarawas County.

He hasn’t said in open court why he’s choosing to represent himself in the murder case, but he has made some requests to that end. He requested and was granted access to materials to prepare his case, such as law books.

He also has asked the judge to consider requests that his restraints be removed in court, so as not to prejudice a jury, and that the trial be moved elsewhere, citing possible prejudice against him because of pretrial publicity by media coverage.

A judge warned Clark he’ll be held to the same standards as an attorney in terms of his responsibility to present his defense, question witnesses and negotiate with prosecutors, the newspaper reported.

It’s not clear how rare self-representation is in felony cases in Ohio. The Ohio Supreme Court, which compiles court-related statistics, doesn’t track how often defendants represent themselves, said spokesman Bret Crow.

Information from: The Times Reporter

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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