The United States Law Week

Murder Convict Who Represented Himself Denied High Court Review

Feb. 19, 2019, 2:36 PM

A death row inmate forced to represent himself at his own murder trial just lost his chance at getting the U.S. Supreme Court to review whether his being compelled to self-lawyer is constitutional under the Sixth Amendment.

In rejecting Tony Von Carruthers’ petition, the justices passed up the chance to clarify the rules for when courts can take away a defendant’s lawyer as a punishment for misconduct, and whether formal warnings are required first.

After the defendant ran through a series of lawyers and threatened some of them in the lead up to his 1996 trial, the judge presiding over his Shelby County death penalty case said Carruthers had to go it alone.

His actions were “part of an overall ploy on his part to delay the case forever until something happens that prevents it from being tried,” Judge Joseph Dailey said.

Carruthers, a non-lawyer, was convicted and sentenced to death for the drug-related 1994 murders of Marcellos “Cello” Anderson, Delois Anderson, and Frederick Tucker. He and an accomplice buried them alive “inside a freshly dug grave” in Memphis, prosecutors said.

The case is Carruthers v. Mays, U.S., 18-697, review denied 2/19/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jordan S. Rubin in Washington at jrubin@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com; Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com

To read more articles log in. To learn more about a subscription click here.