In Faretta v. California, the United States Supreme Court held that a defendant in a criminal trial has a constitutional right to represent himself-to act "pro se." "The Sixth Amendment does not provide merely that a defense shall be made for the accused; it grants to the accused personally the right to make his defense.
If a defendant chooses to represent himself, what, if anything, must the trial court do to assist him? Must the trial court advise him of his right to exercise peremptory challenges? To make evidentiary objections? To cross-examine prosecution witnesses? To subpoena his own witnesses? To testify? To refuse to testify?
On the one hand, the judge would not advise a lawyer of these rights, because a lawyer is expected to know them. If defendant chooses to act as his own lawyer, perhaps he should be held to the same standard of prior knowledge. But on the other hand, in the real world most pro se defendants know little or nothing of these rights, and a failure to inform them could reduce the trial to a farce.
This article will explore these difficult questions. As Mr. Justice Blackmun put it in his Faretta dissent: "Must the trial court treat the pro se defendant differently than it would professional counsel?''
42 Brandeis L.J. 329 (2004)