Criminal Justice

Queried about understanding of 'deep intellectual stuff,' jurors quickly convict disbarred lawyer

A disbarred lawyer who represented himself at his shoplifting trial was unable to persuade jurors with an emotional closing argument that quoted the Bible and Teddy Roosevelt.

Jurors in Roanoke, Va., deliberated for just under a half-hour Tuesday before convicting Owaiian Jones of petit larceny and obtaining money under false pretenses, the Roanoke Times reports. He was accused of taking batteries and other items from a Kroger store, then trying to return one pack of batteries for a store credit.

The story says Jones opted for a “highly unorthodox and often combative approach.” During voir dire, Jones asked potential jurors if anyone had “a mental infirmity that prevents them from understanding really deep intellectual stuff.” He subpoenaed several character witnesses, including a former neo-Nazi leader who is awaiting trial on federal charges and did not appear. He cross-examined a security guard for more than an hour, trying without success to get the witness to admit to drug abuse, alcohol consumption and racist statements.

At one point, the presiding judge, William Broadhurst, said he had bent over backwards to let Jones represent himself, but “I’m beginning to see the folly in that decision,” the story reports.

In closing arguments Jones appeared to break down, crying loudly, “Sometimes I don’t even know why I do what I do, but I do it.”

Jones was disbarred in 2008 and convicted of embezzlement in 2010, the story says. He received a five-year suspended sentence and probation for that crime.

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