Ronnie O’Neal III escaped death.  On trial for murdering his girlfriend and daughter, the jury unanimously convicted him but recommended that he be sentenced to life imprisonment. They rejected the prosecutor’s urging to recommend death. Most lawyers and members of the public thought that he was incredibly stupid to represent himself. Maybe not.

It certainly was not the brilliance of Mr. O’Neal to choose to represent himself or in the representation itself, but it may have been the reason why the jury ultimately recommended against the death penalty. He came across as mentally infirm. Someone who was a mental mess and unable to control himself. Perhaps it was that flaw that the jury saw when they were deliberating whether to recommend death.

I’m not suggesting that he was a pathetic soul. What I am saying is that by spending so much time before the jury defending himself, they got a good picture of who he was in every sense. He was not “all there” as the expression goes. A few cards short of a deck.  In recommending a death sentence, juries reserve that awesome responsibility to those who are in full control of their faculties and still choose to take another’s life. Ronnie O’Neal was just not one of them. And he proved it through self-representation.