YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas Judge Maureen Sweeney is allowing a Youngstown murder defendant to fire his attorney and represent himself.
The ruling came after a hearing in which 39-year-old Terrell Martin talked over the judge several times.
Martin was on his second set of court-appointed attorneys. One of those attorneys, Ron Yarwood, was dismissed from the cast.
Judge Sweeney wouldn’t grant a continuance in the case, however.
“You’re going on trial Monday, you understand?” Judge Sweeney asked him.
“That’s cool,” Martin answered.
Martin is accused of the February 2017 shooting death of Zachary Howell, 40, whose body was found in a burned-out SUV behind a vacant house at Edgar Street and Knapp Avenue on Youngstown’s east side.
A co-defendant, Lyric Moore, 23, had her case separated from Martin’s case.
Assistant Prosecutor Michael Yacovone asked that Martin’s second attorney, Ryhs Cartwright-Jones, continue as standby counsel in case Martin changes his mind Monday and tells Judge Sweeney he wants an attorney. Judge Sweeney agreed to that request.
Yacovone said he was suspicious that Martin only wanted to fire his attorney to prolong the case.
“The state believes this may be a stalling tactic,” Yacovone said.
Yarwood said the first he learned that Martin wanted to dismiss him was right before the hearing. He said he spoke to Martin Saturday at the jail and Martin never mentioned he wanted Yarwood off the case.
Martin also tried to talk over Judge Sweeney several times only for the judge to warn him to be quiet. She read Martin a form that had questions asking him if he understood what representing himself would be like and at one point she read a statement from the form that said: “Are you familiar with the statement that a man who represents himself has a fool for a client?”
“No,” Martin replied.
“It means you’re a fool if you represent yourself,” the judge said.
“I’m not a fool,” Martin answered.
Howell was only identified by a DNA match on file at the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation because investigators could not find dental records to identify him.
Police were able to link Moore and Martin to the crime because Moore’s cell phone was found at the crime scene.
A complaint filed in municipal court when Moore and Martin were charged with Howell’s death said they had tried to abduct Howell a day before he was found, but that plan was called off.
The complaint said police had text messages between the two from the phone they found and they also found a gas can in Moore’s apartment.
Howell had been shot twice in the head before the SUV was set on fire.