Rolling solo in Federal Court requires a special set of rules and jury instructions.
In light of the unique, if not unprecedented, circumstances of Brown's upcoming fraud and corruption trial, U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard issued specific instructions to guide her in court. She also drafted comments to read to the jury, to explain Brown's role.
Brown received permission last week to represent herself at trial. Her co-defendant Reggie Brown will continue to be represented by professional lawyers. The two jointly face 38 counts of fraud, conspiracy and corruption stemming from the alleged misuse of millions of dollars in federal loans. The money was supposed to buoy Katrina Brown's family barbecue sauce business, but prosecutors say was fraudulently misspent.
Brown got her first crack at self-representation at a hearing Tuesday, and it was not without hiccups. Reggie Brown has raised serious objections to having to serve as co-defendant to her amateur legal efforts, saying the "spectacle" as Katrina Brown "flails about" in court will hurt his own defense.
On Tuesday, Morales Howard declined to sever the cases. She did grant Katrina Brown's request for a continuance beyond the planned trial date of Aug. 14, though not the six months Brown sought. The trial will now start Sept. 23 with jury selection set to begin Sept. 18.
Morales Howard told Brown she must conduct herself according to the rules of evidence and procedure. She also said Brown cannot address or speak about her co-defendant without getting advance permission from the court.
Below is the full text of Morales Howard's proposed jury instructions:
As I previously explained, Ms. Brown decided to represent herself in this trial and not to use the services of an attorney. She has a constitutional right to do that. Her decision must not affect your consideration of the evidence or your decision as to whether or not the government has proved its charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Because Ms. Brown decided to act as her own lawyer, you will hear her speak at various times during the trial. She may make an opening statement if she wishes, and she may make a closing argument. Of course, she does not have to do either. Representing herself, Ms. Brown may ask questions of witnesses, make objections, and argue legal issues to the Court. I caution you that when Ms. Brown speaks in these parts of the trial, she acts as a lawyer in the case, and the words she speaks while acting as a lawyer are not evidence. The only evidence in this case will come from witnesses who testify under oath on the witness stand and from exhibits that are admitted. Although Ms. Brown chose to represent herself, the Court appointed Mr. John Leombruno and Mr. Richard Landes to assist her as standby counsel. This is a standard procedure. You may see Ms. Brown confer with Leombruno or Mr. Landes, and you may hear them make objections or argue legal issues to the Court. Just as when Ms. Brown speaks as a lawyer in certain parts of the trial, when Mr. Leombruno and Mr. Landes speak, their words are not evidence.