Terry Speaks, convicted last month of killing Bourbon Street dancer Jaren Lockhart and cutting up her body, has requested a new trial, saying the judge never asked whether he had a history of mental illness before granting his request to defend himself at his second-degree murder trial.
Speaks, who represented himself through jury selection and the first day of testimony before asking his public defenders to take over, said in court filings Monday that he tried to commit suicide while in the U.S. Marine Corps in the early 1990s and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. He also said he went to Crossroads Behavioral Health Care in 2010 after having a “mental breakdown.”
“If the court had inquired as to defendant’s mental health, he would have revealed that he had been treated for these problems in the past and the court would not have allowed him to represent himself as a result of his mental problems,” according to the motion, which Speaks apparently filed on his own.
State District Judge Stephen Grefer granted Speaks’ request to defend himself on the first day of his trial after asking Speaks a series of specific questions — known in legal terms as a colloquy — about his fitness to represent himself.
Grefer strongly urged Speaks to keep his lawyers — whom Speaks had tried unsuccessfully to fire shortly before the trial — but granted the request because he said Speaks had the right to act as his own attorney if he chose to do so.
Speaks’ motion also cites television interviews with a Mississippi investigator that were conducted on the courthouse steps during the trial, saying they could have been seen by the jury because it was not sequestered.
The motion echoes three unsuccessful bids for a mistrial made by Speaks’ lawyers during the proceedings. Two dealt with the interviews given by a Hancock County investigator who wasn’t called to testify, and the other came immediately after Speaks stopped defending himself on the grounds that his earlier decision had been a mistake. Grefer, who is scheduled to sentence Speaks on Thursday, denied all three motions during the trial.
Margaret Sanchez, Speaks’ alleged accomplice in the 2012 slaying, has not had her trial date set yet. She is charged with the same crimes Speaks was convicted of: second-degree murder, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
The second-degree murder charge carries a mandatory life sentence without benefit of parole, probation or suspended sentence.
Editor’s note: This story was changed July 7 to reflect the correct day of Speaks’ sentencing.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.