A 40-year-old man who represented himself on a Las Vegas first-degree murder charge was found guilty earlier this week. Michael Land could face a life sentence when he is sentenced on Jan. 21.
During the week-long trial, prosecutors claimed Land fatally shot Bailley Short, 20, at close range, while the two were at Las Vegas’s Tahiti Village Resort in 2018. It is located on South Las Vegas Boulevard.
Short’s body was discovered in an alley at the resort. She was shot in the back of the head and neck, execution-style, prosecutors said. It was alleged during the trial that Short was a sex worker, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Short’s mother, Barbara Short, cried upon hearing the verdict in the courtroom on Tuesday, according to the Review-Journal.
“There really aren’t any winners in the end, because his life’s ruined and my daughter’s not here,” Barbara Short was quoted by the Review-Journal. “But she got justice, and that’s what’s important.”
When speaking in court, Land claimed prosecutors in the case were unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he shot Short, the Review-Journal said.
Where is the malice proved between me and the victim throughout this entire investigation?” Land told the jurors. “You’re not going to find it, ‘cause there is none.”
Land also claimed Short was “in trouble” that night, and what he did was assist her, the Review-Journal reported.
Land Asks Questions
During the trial, Land got some questions answered by District Court Judge Michelle Leavitt.
But Clark County Deputy District Attorney Christopher Hamner said Land contradicted himself during a police interview and while testifying in court on Monday, the Review-Journal said.
When you watch his interview, he thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room, and he’s not,” Hamner told the jurors, the report adds.
Among the evidence used to convict Land was a firearm found at his residence, as well as bullets.
Land formerly worked as a security guard for Las Vegas Strip businesses. He was arrested nine months after Short’s body was discovered, the Review-Journal said.
Law Profs Warn About Risks
Law professors not connected with the case told Casino.org that defendants need to be careful about representing themselves in court, especially on criminal charges.
“Defendants have the right to represent themselves and can be passionate advocates on their own behalf, but may not fully understand the options available in the way of defenses, admissibility of evidence, preserving the record on appeal, or other matters that [may] be consequential,” Anthony Cabot, Distinguished Fellow of Gaming Law at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law, said.
It always is a bad idea for a criminal defendant to fly solo,” agreed Robert Jarvis, a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad College of Law. “As the old saying goes, ‘the man who represents himself has a fool for a client.’”
He explained that a criminal defendant is at a “terrible disadvantage when facing a law-trained prosecutor, and neither judges nor juries are impressed by such a defendant trying to learn as he or she goes. Even if the criminal defendant is bright, well-spoken, and a quick study, such cases never end well for such a defendant.”
Also, a criminal defendant who represents themselves cannot later complain that he or she was denied the effective assistance of counsel, Jarvis adds.
Looking ahead, Jarvis said that Land could request an attorney to help him when arguing about the sentence imposed by the judge. He could also have an attorney handle the case if he chooses to appeal the verdict, Jarvis adds.
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