McStay Murders: Suspect Appears in Court as Own Lawyer
A man accused of slaughtering a California family of four appeared in court for the first time on Thursday as his own lawyer.
Charles “Chase” Merritt was arrested last November and charged with four counts of murder in connection with the deaths of Joseph McStay, 40, his wife, Summer, 43, and their sons, 4-year-old Gianni and 3-year-old Joseph.
The family mysteriously disappeared in 2010. Their bodies were found three years later in shallow graves in the California desert.
Merritt, a former business associate of Joseph McStay’s, told the judge that the jail library is inadequate and “almost useless,” according to U-T San Diego. Access to the library is a problem as well.
“I was supposed to get four hours a week,” Merritt, 57, said. “I have had four hours in the last three weeks.”
He also complained that he has not received any of the more than 9,400 pages of evidence in the case.
Merritt, who has said he is dying from congestive heart failure, asked last month to represent himself in the case in the hopes of moving the case along. He has claimed he only has six to eight months to live.
San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Michael Smith agreed, but warned Merritt that he did not think it was a good idea.
A hearing has been set for March 16 to address Merritt’s concerns. In the meantime, Smith said he will assign a defense attorney to assist Merritt.
Police have not released a motive for the grisly murders. Merritt has pleaded not guilty to all charges.