ST. JOSEPH, Mo. | The Buchanan County Courthouse hosted amateur hour Tuesday.
Charged with robbing the Woody’s Mini Mart last year, Arthur Monk decided to fire his public defender and represent himself in circuit court. Wearing orange scrubs and shackles, Monk, 52, attempted a defense at his bench trial that vacillated between comical and hopeless.
More than once, Monk referred to Judge Dan Kellogg as “Kelloggs,” like the cereal brand. When his ex-girlfriend testified that he confessed the robbery to her, Monk declared her statements “hearsay” and then seconds later speculated she could’ve been involved in the robbery for all he knew.
Merriam-Webster defines hearsay evidence as, “evidence based not on a witness’s personal knowledge but on another’s statement not made under oath.”
He tried to question one officer about another’s statement and never sought to refute that he was the man in the Woody’s surveillance video.
Mr. Monk didn’t call any witnesses other than himself. His testimony was, “It wasn’t me. I feel there isn’t a victim here to point me out. ... All the evidence show is fabrication and hearsay.”
Judge Kellogg hardly paused after closing statements before issuing his guilty verdict, though that did leave Mr. Monk a small victory. The judge found him guilty of second-degree robbery, a class B felony.
Monk initially applied for a public defender but then decided to fire Mearle Turner. The judge required Turner to stay on in an advisory role, and she sat quietly next to her former client throughout the proceedings.
“He decided he didn’t like me, didn’t trust me, didn’t think I could help him,” she told the St. Joseph News-Press afterward.
Turner said it was the first time in seven years as a public defender she had a client chose to represent himself. Sue Rinne, the director of the Buchanan County Public Defenders’ Office, added it was the first time in her year and a half that something like this happened in her office. And on the rare occasion when a defendant follows Monk’s path, the success rate isn’t good.
Dwight Scroggins said that in his 18 years as the Buchanan County prosecutor, he can’t remember a defendant representing him or herself and winning a significant felony case.
“I wouldn’t say there has never been one, but I don’t recall any,” Mr. Scroggins said. “People have the constitutional right to do that if they choose to, but it’s almost without exception not a good decision.”
Monk's sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 2. He could receive five to 15 years in prison.
| R. J. Cooper, St. Joseph News-Press