09/30/09 — Accused robber begins his own defense in court

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Accused robber begins his own defense in court

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on September 30, 2009 1:46 PM

A Maple Street man began defending himself Tuesday in Wayne Superior Court against armed robbery charges that carry more than 700 years of potential prison time.

Anthony Jerome Lee, 41, is accused of robbing nearly a dozen convenience stores last year with a shotgun.

At the start of the trial, he waived his right to appointed or hired counsel. However, "stand-by" counsel is required when facing such serious charges, and attorney Geoff Hulse sat in the seat directly behind the witness table, frequently conferring with Lee.

As his own representative, Lee cross-examined each witness called by Assistant District Attorney Mike Ricks.

Witness Mercedes Price was working at Friendly Mart on U.S. 13 South at the intersection of Durham Lake Road when it was robbed April 9, 2008, she said.

The district attorney asked her about the event, which she said occurred toward the end of her work shift, after night had fallen.

"I was eating supper, and (a co-worker) was having a cigarette. I just looked at her, and she had her hands up in the air, and I was thinking that she was joking."

The robber did not see Miss Price at first, but when he did he told her to join her co-worker and assist in taking both money from the cash register and Newport-brand cigarettes.

Miss Price said that the robber pointed the sawed-off shotgun at her head.

"When this sawed-off shotgun was pointed in your face, how did you feel?" Ricks asked Miss Price.

"Like maybe I was going to get shot if I didn't do what he said," Miss Price testified.

A short while later, the defendant cross-examined Miss Price. Lee wore a dark green suit and tied his long hair into a bun on the back of his head for the trial.

"How old would you say that this robber could have been?" Lee asked Miss Price.

"I couldn't really see his face, so I couldn't really get an age," Miss Price answered.

The robberies police say Lee committed were characterized by a man wearing a hooded, camouflaged jacket that concealed much of the robber's face.

"What about the sound. Could you hear anything he said?" Lee asked the witness.

"It was muffled because he had something on his mouth," Miss Price testified.

A short time later, Lee asked Miss Price if she could identify her attacker.

"Could you ID this robber?" Lee asked.

"I don't know," Miss Price said.

Judge Paul L. Jones noted the number of times the jury had to be excused from the room to discuss technicalities in the trial was above average, perhaps due to the inexperience of the defendant in trying a case.

When the jury re-entered after one of those discussions, the judge joked that the jurors must have their seats memorized after leaving the court so many times.

"I assume everybody's getting familiar with your seats, what number you're in," the judge said before reassuring them that all evidence pertinent to the outcome of Lee's case would be shown to them.

"There will be matters that arise that have to be considered outside the presence of the jury," the judge said.

The trial was expected to continue at 9:30 a.m. today.