Defendant in 4 Calif killings to represent himself

AP News
Posted: May 06, 2011 2:24 PM
Defendant in 4 Calif killings to represent himself

A man charged with killing four Northern California women with matching first and last initials can act as his own attorney in what is expected to be a death penalty case, a judge ruled Friday.

Defendant Joseph Naso is also being investigated for possible links to New York's "Double Initial Murders" _ killings in the early 1970s of three girls, each with matching initials.

In California, Marin County Superior Court Judge Andrew Sweet said Naso understood his right to waive counsel.

"I'm convinced you know what you're doing here, and that you're choosing to represent yourself voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently," Sweet said.

Naso, 77, has said he knows the case better than anyone else and didn't want to exhaust his financial resources on attorneys.

He also said he was not confident meetings with attorneys in Marin County Jail would remain confidential. The judge and district attorney assured him that was not the case.

After Sweet's ruling, Naso said he was not yet ready to enter a plea and requested all the district attorney's evidence related to the case.

"I live alone in a cell with no roommates. I have a lot of time on my hands and would like the opportunity to get started," he said.

Naso spoke calmly, saying he would make it his goal not to waste the court's time and to conduct himself in a respectful manner.

The four Northern California women were killed in the 1970s and 1990s. All had matching initials: Carmen Colon, Roxene Roggasch, Pamela Parsons and Tracy Tafoya.

Naso was living most recently with his 49-year-old mentally ill son near Reno, Nev., but has spent the past 13 months in jails in Nevada and California for parole violations. He was arrested last month on the California murder charges upon his release from a Lake Tahoe-area jail.

Authorities said they found an "enormous" amount of evidence while searching his home following a probation violation stemming from a theft conviction.

Prosecutors have maintained that Naso has the financial means to hire counsel, and the public defender's office has said it does not believe he would qualify for taxpayer funded counsel.

Naso said Friday that money was a factor but "low on the scale" in his choice to act as his own lawyer.

"I'm choosing not to spend my money foolishly," Naso said. "There are issues in this case I feel I must address personally."

Outside court Friday, District Attorney Ed Berberian said he has experience handling cases in which a defendant has represented himself.

"It's not either easier or harder. It's just different," he said.

Berberian had no comment on whether Naso made the right decision.

"He's an intelligent man," Berberian said.