Judge Doug Mattson will allow murder defendant Bradley Morales to represent himself during his upcoming re-trial on Aug. 9.
Mattson signed the order on March 9 giving permission for Morales’s defense attorney to withdraw from the case and for Morales to proceed as his own attorney. Mattson ordered David Ogren, the defense attorney, to “stand by” if Morales needs to consult him during the trial.
Morales, who is accused of the August 2017 stabbing death of his ex-girlfriend at a Minot residence, has been represented by seven attorneys and has had similar difficulties with most of them. Morales wanted to have control of the case and over which witnesses were called and some attorneys objected to the approach he wanted them to take with his defense. His most recent defense attorney, Ogren, told the judge in January that there had been “an irreparable rift and complete breakdown in the attorney client relationship.” Morales’s second attorney at his first murder trial told Mattson when he asked to withdraw from the case in October 2017 that “there are some clients and some attorneys that mix as well as oil and water” and he thought Morales would do better with another lawyer.
Morales is not a lawyer. His highest educational credentials include a general equivalency diploma and a certified nursing assistant (CNA) certification. But another previous attorney, Ashley Gulke, had told Mattson in October 2019 that Morales is intelligent and pointed out case law to her that seemed to be on point and he has a right to represent himself if he chooses to do so. She too later asked to withdraw from the case and another attorney was later appointed.
Morales told Mattson that he wanted someone other than Ogren to serve as his “stand by” counsel, but Mattson said it would not make much difference since Morales has had the same problems with every other attorney he has had.
Morales’s behavior during his first murder trial was previously deemed problematic by the judge. Morales interrupted Mattson at different points during the trial in May 2018 and had to be returned to the jail for brief periods to calm down before the trial could resume.
“Based on the prior conduct of Morales noted above and throughout these proceedings, the Court has some concern that Morales may again engage in conduct that would require his removal from the courtroom or otherwise make pro se representation difficult, if not impossible,” wrote Mattson.
Morales told the judge that he will behave appropriately and wants to represent himself and Mattson agreed, albeit with reservations, but said that no allowances will be made for Morales and he will have to present his case and follow all of the same court rules that an attorney would. Morales thinks he can represent himself based on what he observed at his previous trial, according to Mattson’s order.
Morales was convicted at his first murder trial and Mattson later sentenced him to 40 years in prison. However, the state supreme court later ordered that Morales must be given a new trial because Mattson violated Morales’s constitutional right to a public trial by closing the courtroom on different occasions without first considering alternatives.
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