TAMPA (WFLA) – Ronnie Oneal III is not a trial lawyer, but this week he’s taking on a challenge many attorneys would not attempt. He is representing himself in court.
Oneal is accused of killing his girlfriend and his daughter in their Riverview home in 2018 and also stabbing his son and setting him on fire. Oneal is facing the death penalty if he’s found guilty.
On Tuesday, Oneal had a chance to question jurors to find out their opinions on the death penalty and on crimes against children.
Experienced trial lawyers spend years studying the art of selecting jurors in cases like this. Some hire consultants to consider the psychological nuances of questioning potential jurors in situations like this as the jury selection process is considered a vital part of any trial that can greatly impact the outcome.
Instead of questioning the jurors when given an opportunity, Oneal gave a repetitive statement. The judge at one point shut Oneal down telling him this was not the time to offer his own opinion on issues, but to find out what potential jurors were thinking.
Experienced trial lawyer Bryant Camareno is not involved in this case but says it’s a mistake for defendants to represent themselves.
“Most of these guys are influenced by what they see on T.V. Or what they read in books, read in newspaper or what other inmates tell them. So that may be what’s going on here, no you can ask this, I’ve seen it done on T.V., well no the rules of evidence says otherwise,” said Camareno.
The trial is expected to last three weeks.