Update: A 12 member jury and two alternates have been seated. Opening statements begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.
GRETNA, La. (WGNO) - A shocking day in the Jefferson Parish Criminal Courthouse, as accused murderer Terry Speaks filed a motion to dismiss his counsel and represent himself. Speaks and his alleged accomplice, Margaret Sanchez, allegedly killed, dismembered, and dumped Bourbon Street dancer Jaren Lockhart into the Gulf three years ago. Speaks and Sanchez were both seen on surveillance video leaving a nightclub with Lockhart, parts of her body washed ashore in Mississippi.
Monday, Speaks walked into the courtroom dressed in a grey suit jacket and tie, wearing khakis, carrying a big stack of papers. Not donning his usual orange jumpsuit and handcuffs.
Judge Steve Grefer heard the first motion filed by Speaks's then-attorney John Benz, claiming that the recent homicide investigations of two women found dead on I-10 could be related to Lockhart's death. D.A. Doug Freese called up Captain Kevin Smith to the stand, who said the deaths are not related. Judge Grefer denied that motion.
Then Judge Grefer took up the second motion, filed by Terry Speaks to dismiss counsel. Judge Grefer asked Speaks a number of questions, beginning with his background. Asking his level or education, if he had ever studied law, if he understood court procedure, if he had spoken with his family and friends about representing himself. Speaks confidently responded to each question saying he was ready to represent himself.
At one point, Judge Grefer told Speaks, "I don't think this is a good idea. I don't ever advise someone to represent themselves."
Then the judge suggested that Speaks keep Benz (his former attorney) as an adviser. Speaks agreed then asked, "But can I change my mind?" The judge said, "Yes, that's why he wanted Benz to remain as and adviser."
Then there were oral arguments about evidence. Speaks appeared shaken and nervous, frequently pausing and stuttering. At one point, he started going into detail about his case and the district attorney cut him off since he was giving testimony and showing "guilty knowledge" which was improper court conduct.
Speaks would say objection frequently when the D.A. was giving an argument, but then Speaks wouldn't know what to do after, whispering with his advisers (former attorneys). Then the D.A. started to get heated at one point saying "the defendant suffers no prejudice if we take this up after jury selection. We have 50 people cooling their heels downstairs and we will be here a long time if Speaks wants the opportunity to go through all of this before we proceed. His right can be appropriately addressed before opening statements." Judge Grefer decided to defer the ruling on the evidence.
Then 50 jurors were called up, they walked into the courtroom and given instructions. Then court broke for lunch. WGNO will continue to follow this bizarre case. Stick with us for the latest.
The trial date for Sanchez has not been set.