The incredibly curious case of Albert Holland, a death row inmate from Florida, highlights the extent of the failures of the capital system. Holland has no legal training and might be mentally ill, but he’s by far the best lawyer he’s had in all the time he’s been fighting the state’s intention to kill him:
Marvel at the way this has played out:
At the 1996 retrial, which, like the first trial, ended in a murder conviction and a death sentence, Mr. Holland asked to represent himself at least 10 times, saying he did not trust Mr. Lewis and could in any event do a better job.
Judge Charles M. Greene of the state circuit court in Fort Lauderdale denied the requests, saying Mr. Holland did not have “any specific legal training.” That is not the constitutional standard; indeed, the Supreme Court has said that “technical legal knowledge” is not required.
As proof that Mr. Holland was no longer mentally ill, Judge Greene praised him as an able advocate who had “correctly argued case law and factual issues to the court.” His legal skills, then, were proof that he was fit to be executed — but not good enough that he be allowed to defend himself.
In no small part because of his apparent legal acumen, Holland has won a new trial.