It’s an old saying, but one that Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Ruth Ann Franks told a Swanton Township man often rings true: “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
Judge Franks explained the adage to David Zielinski on Tuesday at a hearing on his request to represent himself on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, kidnapping, and attempted murder stemming from the July 14 death of Michael Jackson, 20, of Toledo.
The judge asked what he knew about the law and whether he felt able to defend himself against charges that carry a possible sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“Yes, your Honor,” he responded repeatedly.
Prosecutors allege that Mr. Zielinski, 34, of 3859 Berkey Southern Rd. broke into the West Central Avenue home of his estranged wife, Amber Hayes; shot Mr. Jackson to death after finding him in bed with Ms. Hayes, and then attempted to force Ms. Hayes to flee with him.
Last month, he told the court he wanted a new lawyer because he did not trust his court-appointed attorney, Adrian Cimerman. Judge Franks refused his request, and earlier this week, Mr. Zielinski informed the court he intended to represent himself.
In an hourlong hearing Tuesday, Judge Franks urged him to reconsider, saying in almost all cases, a trained lawyer “would defend you far better than you can defend yourself.”
Mr. Zielinski told Judge Franks he might change his mind if he had an attorney he “connected” with. Asked to explain, he said he wanted an attorney “who believed in what I was telling them, who believed in my case, who sat down and looked at all the facts and I felt like they were working together with me, and I didn’t feel like they were working against me.”
At one point, Mr. Zielinski said he had been attacked in his own home on the day in question. He later said he wanted to change his not guilty plea to a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Ultimately, Judge Franks released Mr. Cimerman from the case and told Mr. Zielinski she would appoint a new attorney for him by Thursday.
The new attorney either will represent Mr. Zielinski or serve as stand-by counsel if the court allows him to represent himself.
Though it’s unusual for defendants in serious criminal matters to defend themselves, last year Melody Williams, 49, did so in her jury trial in Judge Franks’ courtroom.
She was convicted of aggravated murder, aggravated arson, aggravated robbery, and two counts of tampering with evidence for the death of L.C. Lyons, Jr., at his Sylvania Township home July 4, 2011, and was sentenced to life in prison.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.