Home invasion suspect to represent self

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Johnny Lee Gibson is one of two charged in connection with a 2008 home invasion

By Cindy DiFazio

Staff writer/photographer

An Indiana resident charged in connection to a May 2008 home invasion in Smithfield will assist his defense attorney and serve as co-counsel in his own trial.

Johnny Lee Gibson, one of two men charged with the May 2, 2008, incident, is charged with first degree robbery, first degree burglary and three counts of adult kidnapping.

The Henryville, Ind., resident appeared before Circuit Court Judge Karen Conrad last week. Through attorney Rob Riley, Gibson requested to be named co-counsel in order to assist in his own defense.

The defendant, who Riley described as smart and well-suited to assisting, wants to question witnesses. “My knowledge would be more intimate,” he said. “Over years of knowing someone, it means I’ve established a better rapport and may get a better answer.”

Conrad cautioned Gibson. “If you don’t discuss everything with your attorney, you leave him ill-prepared,” she said. She also warned that she would step in and stop him if she finds his questioning inappropriate.

Gibson said he may participate in opening and closing arguments, but he might not. Commonwealth Attorney William Crowley expressed concerns about Gibson serving as counsel, and later objected to Gibson’s possible participation in opening and closing statements. “This is not a new road we’re traveling,” he said. “I have a real problem with this.”

Riley said Gibson would be held to the same standards as any attorney and still must follow procedural rules.

Gibson said if he called on one of his sisters to testify, for example, she might be more forthcoming. “They’re reluctant to air our family laundry,” he said. “She’d be more stilted.”

Crowley was unmoved and expressed concern about cross-examination and reciprocal discovery. “I am not inclined to be blind-sided if that is part of this tactic,” he said.

Riley assured the judge and Commonwealth’s Attorney that all written notices would be filed by him. “Any time an inmate exercises this right there are burdens,” Riley said, “and I accept it with everything it weighs.”

Conrad ruled in Gibson’s favor saying he is capable and had relayed his wishes to be co-counsel intelligently.

Gibson was charged in connection with a home invasion in which Kentucky State Police reported “two unknown subjects wearing ski masks entered the residence through an unsecured door and held three victims at gunpoint. One was ordered to take two checks for cash to Bedford Loan & Deposit Bank in La Grange and make a drop of the money at another location.”

Another pre-trial date is set for March 11. There also is a trial pending in Oldham County for charges related to the home-invasion.


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