Florida Judge Denies Markeith Loyd’s Request to Hand-Pick Attorney

Markeith Loyd, 41, of Orlando, Florida was in court once again on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, for a pre-trial status hearing, to learn Chief Judge Frederick J. Lauten’s decision on Loyd’s request to be able to choose his court-appointed attorney.

Judge Lauten addressed Loyd directly to explain his ruling on the defendant’s motion of April 3, 2017, to be able to choose Miami-based attorney Terry Lenamon as his court-appointed counsel. Judge Lauten reinforced his support of Loyd being represented by an attorney rather than his previously determined decision to represent himself in the upcoming trial.

The court explained that while the temptation is great to grant the defendant’s motion, it is unable to do so for several reasons:

  • Case law mandates that an indigent person has the right to competent counsel, but not the right to choose a particular attorney.
  • Neither Judge Lauten, nor any other judge in Florida’s 9th District, has ever allowed an indigent person to insist on a particular attorney in the past, not even within the county, let alone outside the county such as Lenamon is, being located in Dade County.
  • Attorneys within Orange County have voluntarily placed themselves on the list from which the court chooses attorneys for Loyd’s defense, making it unfair for the court to arbitrarily go outside the county to appoint a defense attorney without the absolute need to do so.
  • Judge Lauten has already appointed Roger Weeden and Miss Hawthorne as stand-by counsel for Loyd, competent defense attorneys who Lauten would likely appoint as the defendant’s permanent counsel.
  • The court explained that defendants have the right to a Nelson hearing, a procedure that can be used to ask for the dismissal of incompetent defense counsel if that need should arise.

The judge completed his explanation of his denial of Loyd’s motion by again strongly urging the defendant to choose to be represented by legal counsel, but unless a defendant is paying for legal representation, s/he does not have the right to choose which attorney(s) that will be.

Markeith Loyd then addressed the court, stating he had filed motions that Judge Lauten was not yet addressing. The judge indicated he had not yet received the motions Loyd mentioned. Loyd then stood up and was ready to exit the jury box where he was seated between two law enforcement officers. The judge bid him to sit down and allow the court to address the issues he’d just mentioned one at a time:

  • The court re-explained that it would not appoint Loyd’s choice of counsel, Terry Lenamon, and could only do so if Lenamon agreed to work pro bono, something the court would not ask him to do.
  • Loyd’s stand-by counsel, Roger Weeden, addressed the court, bringing up a rule that would allow Weeden to request Lenamon be his co-chair in Loyd’s defense. The court indicated that while it was familiar with the rule, it was not aware of its application in the manner Weeden was suggesting, asking if Weeden could cite any cases where that application had been used previously.
  • Judge Lauten read from the rule book that the rule states lead defense counsel may choose a co-chair from the list of lead attorneys or co-chair attorneys, asking Weeden if that doesn’t refer to the list of Orange County attorneys who’ve already placed their names on that list. Weeden argues that Lenamon is on such a list, which Lauten agrees he likely is, just not the Orange County list. The issue becomes whether the rule, as written or applied in previous cases, refers directly to the Orange County list or a list of attorneys in other areas of the state.
  • Weeden indicates he needs time to research how the rule has been applied in the past and whether “list” refers to a statewide list or the list of attorneys for the county. The court gives Weeden time to do his research and find an answer to bring to the court.
  • Judge Lauten addresses Loyd again directly, asking if he’d like to talk with Weeden and Lenamon about the court’s ruling and how to proceed, explaining that on April 17 the hearing scheduled is for a pre-trial conference hearing before the scheduled start of Loyd’s trial on May 1, 2017. The judge orders a recess so that Loyd can talk with counsel and determine if he is ready to go to trial on May 1.

Upon return from the 10-minute recess, the court asks if Markeith Loyd has decided to be represented by legal counsel. Weeden addresses the court, explaining that Loyd’s decision is contingent upon the answer to whether or not Weeden has the right to choose Lenamon as his co-counsel.

Judge Lauten explains that Weeden would only have that ability, if it’s determined to exist, as Loyd’s lead counsel. At this point, Weeden is still stand-bu counsel for Loyd, appointed by the court. The judge explains that his concern now is the ticking clock and a criminal trial that s set to begin on May 1.

The court explains it also has several other issues to address at Wednesday’s hearing, including new motions filed by Loyd that include a motion for discovery, a motion to oppose the psychological evaluation ordered by the court, a formal objection to appointment of counsel, a motion to appoint Terry Lenamon as Loyd’s defense counsel and a letter filed by Loyd with the clerk of court seeking a copy of all motions, including his motion not to seek the death penalty, to the judge.

The court then addresses Loyd’s verbal request earlier in this same hearing to disqualify Judge Lauten from hearing the criminal trial due to Loyd feeling he cannot get a fair trial under Lauten. The judge indicates he hasn’t found that motion to have been filed with the clerk of courts but asks Loyd if he has drafted such a motion, which Loyd indicates he has not.

Judge Lauten explains that the court needs to know if Loyd intends to file a motion to seek a disqualification of this court n further legal proceedings or what his thoughts are on the matter. Stand-by counsel Weeden, who is working under an odd burden as Loyd’s counsel, but not his counsel, is unsure how Loyd intends to proceed.

Judge Lauten indicates he’s willing to call a recess so that Loyd can draft a motion to disqualify the court, something Lauten would need to rule on before addressing other issues. The judge repeatedly asks Loyd directly if he would like time to file a motion for the judge to disqualify himself or if Loyd wants to continue with the day’s hearing for now and consider the disqualification motion at a future date.

Loyd indicates he wants to discuss the issue of his legal counsel now. Judge Lauten advises Loyd that if the defendant decides to accept court-appointed counsel, Lauten is likely to appoint current stand-by counsel, Roger Weeden, who at that point could file a motion for a co-chair, which the court may or may not then be able, by law, to appoint Terry Lenamon as co-chair for the defense.

The court again asks Loyd if he wants to court to appoint Weeden as his counsel, who can then file whatever motions needed on Loyd’s behalf. After a brief conversation between Weeden and Loyd, Loyd again tells the court he wants Lenamon appointed as co-chair. Judge Lauten makes it clear to the defendant that in choosing to have Roger Weeden appointed as his counsel by the court, it is not conditional, that is, it doesn’t mean Lenamon will or won’t be appointed by the court as co-counsel, but that the judge will rule on that issue if and when Weeden would make the motion.

Loyd agrees to have Roger Weeden appointed by the court as his legal defense counsel.

Judge Lauten then addresses Weeden’s motion for Loyd’s case to be continued, which Lauten explains to Loyd is for the defense’s benefit to build a case and to obtain discovery of the state’s evidence against him and any number of issues that need to be addressed before a capital murder case. In order for the court to grant that continuance, the defense would need to agree to a waiver of a speedy trial, meaning the state is relieved of the burden of beginning the criminal trial within 175 days of Loyd’s arrest.

After these explanations, the court asks Loyd if he wishes to waive his right to a speedy trial, to which Loyd answers, “Yes.” Judge Lauten grants the defense’s motion for a continuance of trial based on its waiver to Loyd’s right for a speedy trial.

The court then talks about issues it wants on the record and for Loyd and his counsel, Weeden, to know:

  • Dr. Danzinger, who came to the jail to do the court-ordered psychological evaluation on Loyd who refused to speak to the doctor, filed a two-page report with the court. The court provided copies of the brief psychological overview to the prosecution and defense and ordered the evaluation to be sealed.
  • The state has filed motions to seek the death penalty in both of the murder charges against Markeith Loyd and has listed five aggravating factors it intends to prove at trial for one murder and eight aggravating factors for the second murder; motions to seek DNA samples; a motion to restrict discovery on the video allegedly showing the shooting of Orlando Police Department Lt. Debra Clayton by the defendant.

The court suggests that instead of the pre-trial conference scheduled for April 17, in light of the continuance of the trial, instead they use that time as a motion hearing to deal with motions yet undecided.

Finally, the court addressed the wearing of clothing to court that depict either the victims or the defendant. Beginning next week, Judge Lauten asked that those who come to court avoid wearing representations or statements about either side to avoid potentially tainting any observers or participants.

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