Judge Grants Murder Defendant Pro Se Motions Hearing

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On Nov. 20, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Melissa M. Phinn heard the complaints of a 47-year-old murder defendant who felt his decision to represent himself, pro se, was not respected.

Lorenzo Thomas is charged with attempted first- and second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, possessing and receiving a weapon and reckless endangerment in connection to a March 1, 2022, shooting.

The prosecutor said on Oct. 26, Thomas’ previous trial date, he became disruptive to the point that Judge M. Brooke Murdock dismissed him from court and sent him back to North Branch Correctional Institution. 

In Monday’s hearing, Thomas was demonstrably frustrated and concerned that his federal right to a speedy trial was being violated. He told Judge Phinn he consistently said he wanted to represent himself and filed his own motions, yet still had not received evidence from the prosecution. 

Judge Phinn explained that his current attorney, James Sweeting III, was assigned to his case by the Office of the Public Defender (OPD). Because Sweeting was the defense attorney of record, the prosecution could not send evidence directly to Thomas. 

Still upset, Thomas asked, “How did I get an attorney when I didn’t want an attorney?” Stand-in public defender Deborah Levi offered that Sweeting’s assignment may have simply resulted from a miscommunication within the OPD. According to Levi, Sweeting had entered his appearance on the case on June 6. 

The prosecutor told Judge Phinn that on the October trial date, Thomas did not voice concerns with his representation to Judge Murdock and that Thomas and Sweeting were in fact working together.

Nevertheless, Judge Phinn granted Thomas a hearing for a court to adjudicate his motions and to possibly discharge Sweeting as his attorney. 

Judge Charles H. Dorsey III will hear Thomas’ motions on Feb. 2, 2024. 

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