Self-Defense: New Orleans Man Beats Trial After Acting As His Own Attorney

Self-Defense: New Orleans Man Beats Trial After Acting As His Own Attorney

It is never a good idea to represent yourself when your life is on the line. Don “Poo” Hayes of New Orleans doesn’t care. With five felony drug and gun convictions on his record, Hayes faced life in prison on Tuesday, as he stood trial for possession of heroin with intent to distribute. However, after consultation from a public defender, he decided to defend himself…and won.

The New Orleans Advocate provided background details of Hayes’ predicament:

The case stemmed from an investigation in which a confidential informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration called Hayes to set up a drug purchase Sept. 18 at Hayes’ house in the 1900 block of Alvar Street in the Upper 9th Ward. The informant paid $300 for a plastic bag containing heroin, authorities said.

DEA Special Agent Joseph Blackledge then secured a search warrant for the house, turning up four digital scales, more plastic baggies and spent bottles of mannitol, a cutting agent, along with a “residual” amount of heroin.

Hayes was arrested Sept. 24 and jailed in lieu of $100,000 bail.
With knowledge gleaned from the public defender, Hayes argued that the prosecutors never proved that he was actually in possession of any drugs. After two hours of deliberation, the jury returned with a decision to acquit Hayes.
This isn’t the first time Hayes has unsuccessfully represented himself in court. In 2011, he was prosecuted on the same charge “after a New Orleans Police Department officer spotted him driving the wrong way down North Villere Street and found a half-ounce of heroin and $1,545 in cash on him.” He made the midtrial decision to ditch his attorney and delivered his closing arguments. The jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to four years in prison. Hayes appealed the decision, claiming that the judge failed to inform of his right to appointed counsel, which impeded “a knowing and intelligent waiver of counsel.” His conviction was upheld after it was proven that Criminal District Court Judge Robin Pittman warned Hayes that representing himself is “almost always unwise and may be detrimental.”
Hayes isn’t out of the woods yet. He still sits in jail facing three pending cases on charges of “attempted murder and weapons charges from 2014, an aggravated assault charge from last summer and a pair of domestic abuse counts for which he was charged days after his arrest on the heroin charge.” Hayes plans to represent himself in all of those proceedings.

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