State Supreme Court hears Anthony Bell case
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WAFB) - The state's highest court heard motions Friday in the case of a man convicted of gunning down five people.
Anthony Bell was sentenced to death for the murders of his wife and four of her family members four years ago. During his trial, he did something many didn't expect in representing himself. That was the key issue at the State Supreme Court. His attorneys want his conviction overturned and a new trial.
The scene was absolute chaos. A Sunday church service turned into a crime scene in a matter of seconds as Bell opened fire on five members of his wife's family. A few hours later, he shot his wife, Erica, at her home.
The issue before the court Friday was whether a person can serve as their own lawyer in a death penalty case.
Sarah Ottinger is representing Bell now and she says he never should have been allowed to serve as his own attorney. "We're asking for something right now state law doesn't require and that is that this court create a higher level of competency to stand trial," said Ottinger. She argued he was forced to do so.
Justice Jeannette Knoll disagreed. "He has that right," said Knoll. "He was cautioned, but that's the American system."
Ottinger said the issue was whether Bell understood what that would be when he waived his right to an attorney.
The East Baton Rouge District Attorney's Office said Bell was completely competent and both the guilty verdict and death sentence should stand.
During his first trial, two out of three doctors and a judge said Bell was competent.
"I was at the DA's office for a month when the case was tried," said Allison Rutzen with the EBR DA's Office. "I sat in the trial every single day and to tell you quite honestly, I think this man did a better job that I could have done my first month."
Bell is currently in a cell at Angola, waiting for the justices to make a decision.http://www.wafb.com/global/story.asp?s=13135291