Despite a Suffolk judge's warning to an Amityville man that he was "making a terrible mistake," he decided Tuesday to represent himself at his murder trial later this month.
Jonathan Thompson, 34, is charged with second-degree murder in the January 2013 death of his girlfriend's 4-year-old son, Adonis Reed. Thompson is accused of hitting the boy when he wouldn't take a nap, tearing his liver and causing other fatal injuries.
He has blamed the boy's death on improper intubation at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip. His lawyer has been Joseph Hanshe, who attended medical school before becoming an attorney.
Suffolk County Court Judge Barbara Kahn questioned Thompson to make sure he knew what he was doing. She made it clear that serving as his own lawyer could be disastrous.
"Courts have said that defendants must be allowed to go to jail under their own banner. Do you understand what that means?" Kahn asked Thompson, who said he did.
"Courts have also held that ineptitude is a constitutionally protected prerogative. Do you understand what that means?" she asked. Thompson said he did.
It is rare for defendants to represent themselves. On Long Island, the most notable such case was Colin Ferguson, who was convicted in Nassau of killing six people and injuring 19 others in the Long Island Rail Road massacre. He is serving 3152/3 years to life in prison.
Kahn told Thompson that Hanshe is both an experienced lawyer and a scientist.
"But I can do better. I've learned a lot lately," Thompson said, referring to time spent in the Suffolk County jail's law library.
Thompson told Kahn he has telemarketing experience and eight college credits -- "So, about half a semester," Kahn said.
His previous legal experience includes convictions for second-degree robbery and credit card fraud, he told the judge.
Kahn asked him what he would do as his own attorney during jury selection and trial.
"There would be a jury pool I can pick from," he replied. "I would be questioning everybody, and presenting my defense. I know what questions to ask."
She told him he would be held to the same standards as any other attorney, and that he may not understand necessary legal principles.
She added that self-representation is not "the right to behave as you choose," and he'd be removed from the courtroom if he acted improperly.
Kahn appointed Hanshe to act as Thompson's standby counsel if he wants advice, but Thompson will question witnesses and make legal arguments.