Murder defendant Jimmie Doss took the stand Monday afternoon, but ended up causing numerous courtroom delays when he asked and answered his own questions while refusing to answer any posed by the prosecutor.
"I'm trying to take the peaceful route," Doss told the judge. "All I'm here for is to set myself for appeal."
The months-long trial in which Doss, 36, is charged with 22 felony counts, including murder, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery, and faces life in prison, has continued in fits and starts as the often-obstinate defendant openly mocked Deputy District Attorney Melissa Smith on numerous occasions.
Doss is accused of fatally shooting Clarence Haynes on Nov. 10, 2009, while the victim sat in a car on Roosevelt Way between 11th Street and Harbour Way in Richmond. The following year, Doss is alleged to have lured men, often undocumented immigrants, into a vacant apartment building with the help of a prostitute, where the men were beaten, robbed and forced to divulge their bank account PINs.
Before Doss took the stand and with the jury not present, his attorney Christopher Martin emphasized he was against his client testifying. The men have sparred throughout the trial.
"I would not put Mr. Doss on the stand," Martin told Judge Theresa Canepa. "I do have concerns he may perjure himself."
He told the judge he would advise his client to invoke the Fifth Amendment, the constitutional protection providing a defendant the right against self incrimination.
Still, the jury was brought in and Doss, with two sheriff deputies sitting beside him, took the unusual step of asking himself a couple dozen questions he had written down and answering them as well, with frequent objections by Smith. Doss began by asking himself about his relationship with the 20-year-old former prostitute who testified against him. He claimed she lied about her true age of 14 or 15 when they first met.
He appeared to question her credibility by asking himself about another woman's allegations that he killed a pregnant woman, testifying that he was incarcerated when that shooting happened and could not have done it.
Before Smith could begin her cross examination, Doss tried to invoke his Fifh Amendment rights, but the judge explained that he had given up his right once he took the stand and questioned himself.
Smith asked: "Mr. Doss, what's your definition of a lie?" Undeterred, Doss invoked the Fifth Amendment. She asked a few more questions with the same result before asking the jury to be removed.
With the jury out of the courtroom, the judge told Doss if he continued to not answer questions his earlier testimony would be stricken from the record.
"I have nothing to say to her," he told the judge.
Doss continued to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights until Smith asked him about the 2009 fatal Richmond shooting, saying he made incriminating statements to Death Row inmate Nathan Burris while in custody.,
"It wasn't me. It wasn't me," Doss said, before quickly invoking the Fifth again.
Smith requested the jury be brought back in, arguing he was not taking the Fifth on all questions. The judge agreed. However, Doss insisted he would not cooperate.
"I'm not fittin' to talk," Doss told the judge, adding if forced on the stand his "calm, clear, cool and respectful" manner would change. Doss' attorney argued any cross examination would serve no purpose other than serve as a "spectacle."
The day ended with the jury sent home and the attorneys will argue how to proceed with the complicated legal argument Tuesday morning.
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.