Experts explain how Wisner Desmaret possibly saved his own life

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Wisner Desmaret avoided the death penalty on Friday while representing himself.

Desmaret also refused to have anyone testify about his mental health issues.

Desmaret’s standby attorney told reporters he believes the jury spared Desmaret’s life because of what they saw from him in the courtroom, pointing toward mental illness.

Since the jury wasn’t polled, we don’t know how many favored the death penalty and were opposed. Nevertheless, legal experts think his life was ultimately spared after he chose to represent himself.

“The jury has returned a verdict that indicates life in prison without the possibility of parole,” the judge said.

Desmaret will spend the rest of his life behind bars, after the jury recognized the aggravating factors were there qualifying him for the death penalty.

“Of all the cases that come before a court, this was certainly one that in many people’s eyes deserved a death penalty. And yet, he was able to avoid it,” FGCU law professor Doctor Pamella Seay, said.

In the capital murder case, Desmaret chose to represent himself after being deemed competent by the court. What followed were bizarre statements and actions from Desmaret in the courtroom.

He would ask jurors about witchcraft and sexual orientations. Even accusing Officer Jobbers-Miller of trying to kill him to steal his blood for a transfusion. Desmaret also claimed his standby attorney was making death threats and never let anyone, including his family, testify in his defense.

“He may not have meant to do this. But I think if he did, he’s a lot smarter than we give him credit for, represent himself, act as odd as he is acting. And let the jury decide if this is this is a person that should be put to death, or this is a person that should be spared from the death penalty because of his own mental issues. And there’s clearly some mental issues. But that’s different than being competent to stand trial. And that’s different from having a mental illness at the time that the incident occurred,” Scot Goldbert, an attorney at Goldberg Noone Abraham, said.

Seay explained, had Desmaret been represented by an attorney, it’s uncertain the jury would have ever heard him speak.

“He made a lot of accusations and, and made many statements that seemed to appear as though he was not in control of his faculties, that he was not as mentally competent as he otherwise should have been,” Dr. Seay said. “And whether or not an attorney representing him would have been able to show that side of him. Probably not because he would never have testified people would never have heard him. All he would have been doing is sitting at the table.”

Dr. Seay pointed out that unless he was testifying under oath, none of his statements should have been seen as evidence by the jury. However, it’s possible it did have an impact.

“There’s so many things that came out in this trial, simply because he was able to speak,” Dr. Seay said.

And Goldberg thinks that’s why the jury could have spared his life.

“Clearly anybody that watched the trial, or read any of the transcripts, or the media things in the news, you would say this person is not very well balanced. And so if the jury sees all of that, and he’s not asking for anything except making statements about why he thought the whole world was against them, I think that could work in his favor,” Goldberg said.

There will be another hearing within the coming weeks where the judge will sentence Desmaret based on the jury’s recommendation.

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