Convicted killer Ronnie Oneal changes tactics, won’t act as own attorney for death penalty phase of trial

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Ronnie Oneal III, who was convicted on Monday in the deaths of his girlfriend and daughter and the attempted murder of his son after acting as his own attorney, is changing his tactics and now says he will allow his court-appointed attorneys to represent him during the penalty phase of his trial.

A Hillsborough County jury convicted Oneal on all counts against him Monday. The charges included two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of his girlfriend, 33-year-old Kenyatta Barron, and their disabled 9-year-old daughter. He was also convicted of attempted murder for trying to kill his son, and arson for trying to set their Riverview home on fire.

Oneal acted as his own attorney during the trial, screaming at jurors during his opening statement. He demanded that he be allowed to act as his own attorney after his public defenders refused to use a “stand your ground” defense.

Experienced trial lawyer Anthony Rickman is not involved in the case, but has been following it. He says Oneal made critical errors when he tried to act as an attorney.

“You have the person who is accused of a heinous murder – of two heinous murders – screaming at the jury, showing them that rage, that ire that the government says he acted with when he killed two innocent people,” he said.

Rickman believes the jury noticed every move Oneal made in court.

“When you look at how he presented himself throughout this case, pacing the courtroom, his body language, his gestures, his rage, his anger, the mood swings – he painted a picture of what he probably looked like when he committed these murders,” Rickman said.

Oneal also will not be able to appeal his case by pointing out he didn’t have an effective lawyer. Rickman says he waved that right when he decided to act as his own attorney.

Rickman says he also waved his rights to other appeal options because of missed opportunities during the trial.

“When you look at the evidence the state presented in conjunction with how badly he acted in this trial, how horribly he performed as his own lawyer, it’s why we see a guilty verdict so quickly in a case like this,” he said.

Wednesday the jury will begin to hear more evidence in the death penalty phase of the trial.

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