With a legal pad of notes in front of him and a pile of case law stacked to his left, Corbin Breitenbach tried to argue why he should be able to assist his attorney in representing himself and why his pretrial court appearances should be closed to the public – and to the media.
He stood shackled in front of Sedgwick County District Court Joe Kisner during a motions hearing Friday afternoon on charges of attempted capital murder, aggravated criminal sodomy and aggravated burglary.
The 23-year-old is accused of strangling and sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl during an attack at a west Wichita condo where she was staying for the night. Breitenbach had been staying in his girlfriend’s apartment across the street.
He’s been jailed since June and has filed a number of handwritten motions – or what Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett referred to as “handwritten thoughts.”
Kisner first took up the issue of the motions being filed in the first place, explaining to Breitenbach that as long as he has an attorney, he cannot assist in representing himself.
Kisner listed off a slew of decisions Breitenbach will be able to make himself, such as entering a plea, his right to a preliminary hearing and his right to defend himself during a trial.
Speaking to Kisner directly, and against his defense attorney’s advice, Breitenbach argued that “you can’t say I have a right to sign a guilty plea” but not a right to file motions.
“I take my direction from the Kansas Supreme Court,” Kisner later told him.
Breitenbach also argued for a closed courtroom, which he believes is the only way he’ll get a fair trial, something he says is a constitutional right and goes above Kansas law.
“I am deemed innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “I get the right to a fair and impartial jury.”
But, the media coverage of his case has taken away that right by publishing details of the case that Breitenbach believes shouldn’t have been released, he said.
Asked what he thought about having a closed courtroom, Bennett said he’s always for an open trial.
“Pretrial publicity is not a basis for closing courtrooms,” the judge said.
Breitenbach will be back in court next Wednesday for a preliminary hearing, which will be open.