Why Did Ted Bundy Defend Himself at Trial? Was This a Smart Move?

a court from outside

Abraham Lincoln once said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” There are few more famous examples of this adage than in the case of Ted Bundy.

Short Introduction to Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy was among the most heinous serial killers to have operated in the 20th century. He committed horrendous acts, but it’s hard to tell from the outside because he was an attractive man who spoke eloquently. His arrogance made him believe that he could not be caught—even considering his multiple victims that resulted in a series of arrests from Washington state to Utah and left a paper trail that eventually led to his arrest.

It wasn’t until 1979 that he was finally brought to justice, after a horrifying series of events in Miami led to his arrest there. Besides becoming the first high-profile court case broadcast on TV, Bundy also represented himself instead of allowing a staff of attorneys to work for him. Through this, he gained notoriety for his bold behavior, disregard for the law and court procedure, and all-around charisma.

Most experts agree that representing himself was a grave mistake and he should’ve let his legal counsel carry out the proceedings. It’s similar to the idea that surgeons don’t do their own procedures. Attorneys should never represent themselves. Let’s take a closer look at the case.

Why Did He Make the Decision?

One of the biggest reasons why Bundy went on to represent himself was because, in a statement, he claimed that his counsel believed that he was guilty of the acts he was accused of, that they didn’t have a solid defense strategy, and that they weren’t skilled enough to overturn the convictions.

However, it has also been argued that he chose to defend himself because he believed that he had the skills required to do so, as he had pursued a law degree earlier in his life. Bundy got accepted into the University of Utah’s and University of Puget Sound’s law schools, despite having low LSAT scores. Although he graduated with a degree in psychology and completed only one year at the University of Utah, he never graduated and completed his law degree.

In the end, the same arrogance that caused him to leave an arrest trail during his murder spree also made him believe that he could defend himself in court. His ego got in the way of the right decision.

people in a courtroom

Is Representing Yourself in Court a Smart Move?

So if attorneys shouldn’t represent themselves in court, why would you? We’re not talking about defending yourself against a traffic ticket. If you’re considering defending yourself in a serious criminal trial, know that the odds are overwhelmingly against you. The courtroom and the law are no places for amateurs. The process is purposely complex and detailed and, considering what’s on the line, why would you risk your freedom and future trying to “figure it out”?

People who are not lawyers or have no experience with the law do not have the ability to represent themselves facing criminal charges and the possibility of trial.

If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges and needs a criminal defense attorney, JL Carpenter can help. She defends those accused of domestic violence and family violence and is also an experienced DWI lawyer.

Contact her today to learn more.