Guy LeGrande

In the coming days, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley will decide the fate of Guy LeGrande, a mentally ill convict who sits on death row at Raleigh's Central Prison. LeGrande's lawyers are asking for clemency because they argue that his mental illness deprived him of his right to a fair trial.

The facts surrounding the case are strange. LeGrande represented himself at the trial and performed bizzar acts of calling the jurrors "anti-christs", dressing as Superman, and making threats against the Judge, District Attorney, and witnesses. It is clear LeGrande was mentally incapable of representing himself and needed the expertise of a lawyer at his capital murder trial.

The LeGrande situtation is not an isolated incident in our court system both in North Carolina and the United States. Several inmates are mentally ill and need therapy to deal with their individual issues. However, I believe the legislatures in each state must begin to address such issues as self-representation to prevent a similar situtation from arising again.

I am calling for the North Carolina General Assembly to pass legislation barring individuals being charged in capital murder cases from representing themselves. I am not a legal scholar and do not know the constitutional implications of such a law, but am convinced that those being prosecuted under such statute need the protection provided to them under United States law.

Protecting the sanctity of the Judicial Process should be a goal of any elected official in the United States. By passing such legislation, general assemblies would be ensuring the fairness of our trial system. I believe it is fairness and equality that our Founding Fathers had in mind when writing our Constitution and therefore strongly advocate for a change in the capital murder statutes of our 50 states.



I'm no legal scholar either, but this whole sad business seems so out of line with integrity and fairness that I don't even know how to begin to tackle it. Thanks for keeping the conversation going.

nuff said right here

I am calling for the North Carolina General Assembly to pass legislation barring individuals being charged in capital murder cases from representing themselves. I am not a legal scholar

I think it is just good old fashioned common sense.

CountryCrats - my thoughts, my blog.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

A supporter of capital punishment weighs in

I know the prosecutor who actually tried this case and I believe that he is ethically above reproach (although the prosecution took place in a district that has had ethical issues in the past). That prosecutor insists that the defendant was not mentally ill when he committed the crime (due to steps he took to prevent forensic evidence from being left at the scene), and I see no reason to contradict him about that. I find the argument advanced by appellate counsel that race played a role in the prosecution's decision to seek the death penalty equally unconvincing.

But was the defendant in fact competent to act as his own counsel? Accounts of the trial supplied by LeGrande's appellate counsel clearly suggest that he was not, but members of the victim's family who were present at the trial insist that he was competent. Frankly, I don't find that persuasive, given that no one appears to dispute the fact that he wore a Superman shirt during the trial, claimed to be Superman, and launched vehement personal attacks at jurors after he was found guilty but before he was sentenced to death. And obviously no one involved in this process (appellate counsel, the victim's family, the trial prosecutor) is totally without bias in the outcome.

Having said all that, the defendant's behavior at trial was so odd that it seems inconceivable to me that the trial judge allowed this to go on. The court does appear to have heard testimony from at least two mental health professionals about the defendant's mental competence, but the judge deemed the defense expert's testimony not credible and instead chose to adopt the finding of the state's evaluation of the defendant. How the judge could have done this in the face of the defendant's bizarre behavior at trial is beyond me, but this press account provides some coverage of that determination:

There is an inherent tension between a defendant's right to the counsel of his choice (even himself) and a defendant's right to a fair trial, and that tension grows even more serious in a capital case. To create a blanket statutory rule that bars self-representation in a capital case seems overbroad, but it seems to me that the trial judge here should have given more credence to the defendant's expert -- especially given the way in which the defendant conducted his defense.

As it is, we are left with an unsettling set of facts and the ultimate question of gubernatorial clemency. If I were the governor, I would commute this defendant's sentence to life in prison. No one should be executed based upon the trial described by this record. Perhaps if there were some definitive evidence that the defendant was malingering during the trial, I would feel differently. But there isn't.

The governor should commute LeGrande's sentence to life in prison.

[Please note that I do not believe that this position conflicts with my personal belief that the death penalty is appropriate in certain limited circumstances. Support for the death penalty must by necessity admit a belief that clemency is appropriate in certain limited circumstances.]


This is great insight, especially coming from a person named NC Prosecutor. Thanks for taking time to write this.

Great insight from a professional...

Thank you. I have to admit that I too am not unequivocally opposed to the death penalty.

Stan Bozarth