Whittier Buck Buchanan, charged with kidnapping and assault with intent to commit a sex crime, cross-examined the woman he allegedly abducted in May in Berkeley at the René C. Davidson Courthouse on Wednesday.
Buchanan, also charged with a failure to reregister as a sex offender after an address change, chose to represent himself in court. In an account told by Angela Ruggiero, author of the East Bay Times article about the trial, he never approached the female victim and thanked her frequently after receiving answers.
According to Ruggiero, Buchanan, who referred to himself in the third person, asked the plaintiff whom she saw when trying to escape. The plaintiff, referred to as Jane Doe, replied, “It was you.”
The reason for Buchanan’s choice to self-represent in court is unknown.
Under the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, which guarantees certain rights of criminal defendants, the Confrontation Clause allows the accused to retain the right to confront the accuser. The Supreme Court decided, in the 1975 case of Faretta v. California, that defendants ultimately possess the right to defend themselves in the courtroom.
The judge possesses, however, a wide discretion in controlling the nature or sequence of questioning, according to Charles Denton, a UC Berkeley School of Law adjunct professor and Alameda County public defender.
Charles Weisselberg, a Berkeley Law professor and director of the Sho Sato Program on Japanese and U.S. Law, said that with self-representing defendants, cross-examination objectives remain the same with or without a representative lawyer — to “undermine the credibility of the witness or draw out points that would support the defense.”
Although defendants representing themselves do not belong to the law profession, they are held to the same courtroom standards, Denton said. He added that, while the process is traumatic for the victim, the defense is less effective compared to attorney representation.
At one point during the trial Wednesday, according to Ruggiero, Doe began to cry, prompting her alleged kidnapper to ask her, “Are you OK?”
The trial will reconvene Monday.