FRESNO, Calif. – Marcus Wesson (search), convicted last week of killing nine of his children, fired his defense attorneys Friday as his sentencing hearing got underway.
"Your honor, my lawyers are fired," Wesson told Judge R.L. Putnam. He then requested a Marsden hearing (search), which would enable him to address his concerns directly to the judge.
Putnam quickly cleared the courtroom without further explanation.
Last Friday, after two weeks of deliberation, the jurors found Wesson guilty of killing nine of his children, and of raping and molesting his daughters and nieces. Some of the victims were children he fathered with his own children. Now, jurors must decide if Wesson should die from lethal injection, or spend the rest of his days in prison.
Wesson's request came soon after prosecutor Lisa Gamoian started addressing the jurors for the final time.
"I'm asking you to return a verdict of death on each count, on all nine counts, of murder this man perpetrated on his children," Gamoian said.
She was then interrupted by the defendant, who remained seating and addressed the judge in a soft voice. Wesson, who's worn the same black, button-down shirt since the trial began four months ago, has lost about half of the 300 pounds he weighed when he was arrested.
His wife, Elizabeth Wesson, his son, Almae, and other family members who remain supportive of Wesson were in the courtroom Friday.
David Mugridge, a Fresno attorney who has been following the case, said Wesson is a smart man, and is seizing what may be "his final opportunity to say, 'I'm not happy with my attorneys, with what's going on."'
If the judge is asked, he must grant a request for the hearing, and give Wesson an opportunity to explain the problems he has with his attorneys. The attorneys also will have an opportunity to explain to the judge why they took the approach they did.
If the judge agrees with Wesson's request, he could grant the defendant new counsel. But the chances of Wesson's request being granted is unlikely, Mugridge said.
"I'd be very, very surprised if the motion is granted," Mugridge said.
During the trial, witnesses described the defendant's family as a closed clan composed of Wesson's wife, his sons, daughters, nieces and nephews. Witnesses said Wesson controlled the family's daily life through strict discipline, physical punishment and sexual abuse.
The murders happened in March 2004 in a back bedroom of the Wesson home after two of the defendant's nieces returned to his home to fetch the children they had with the defendant.
The women had to leave the children behind when they escaped the Wesson home.
When Wesson did not hand over the children, there was a confrontation among the family members, and they called the police. A standoff ensued, with police trying to talk Wesson into giving himself up.
When Wesson finally walked out of the home, there was blood on his clothes. The officers entered the room to find a pile of bodies, most of them children, all shot through an eye.