JACKSBORO, TN. (WLAF)- Matthew Herron, a self- proclaimed sovereign citizen, has been given permission to act as his own attorney in his criminal court proceedings.
Yesterday, in Campbell County Criminal Court, Herron declined having an attorney appointed to represent him in his felony case where he is charged with reckless endangerment and two counts of unlawful possession of a handgun by a convicted felon.
As Eighth Judicial District Criminal Court Judge Zach Walden asked Herron if he wanted an attorney appointed to represent him, Herron said he would be handling his own case “per se.”
“It is pro se so we are off to a rough start,” Walden said. Pro se is when a defendant elects to represent themselves in a court action.
When a defendant opts to act as their own attorney, a series of questions must be asked, which Walden did.
Reading his criminal charges to him, Walden explained a conviction on the felony charges and a consecutive sentencing could result in 48 years in prison, but that didn’t deter Herron from representing himself.
In asking Herron where he went to college, Herron said he did not attend college but that he had studied law and attended trainings.
“I studied law on my own,” Herron said adding that he had read law books and acquired some legal knowledge from the Internet.
“Do you understand this,” Walden asked.
“I understand the allegations,” Herron said.
Attempting to explain his stance, Herron told the judge “double jeopardy was in effect” because these same charges had been “dismissed- done away with” in previous court proceedings.
On this assumption Walden told Herron he was “wrong.”
Circling back to the consequences of a conviction, Walden again asked Herron if he understood he was facing 48 years in prison if he was found guilty of the felonies.
“I guess if it went to trial,” Herron said.
“Are you a sovereign citizen” the judge asked.
“Yes sir, I am,” Herron said as a chuckle reverberated in the courtroom.
A sovereign citizen is a member of a political movement of people who oppose taxation, question the legitimacy of government, and believe that they are not subject to the law, according to Oxford Languages.
Walden then asked Herron several questions about the rules of evidence and criminal court procedure to which Herron was able to give a lay person’s description.
After noting Herron had “knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to counsel,” Walden said he could represent himself but it was a “terrible idea.”
The judge then placed the case on the Aug. 21 docket for motions to be heard.
“I am notifying you that is outside of my speedy trial rights,” Herron said as he stood handcuffed wearing jail issued clothes.
“No it is not,” Walden said eliciting another wave of laughter from the courtroom.
At this point, Herron declared that he was “a lawyer.”
“No you are not and if you keep saying that I will charge you with the unlawful practice of law,” Walden said.
When Herron said he wanted to file a motion during court, Walden had him taken back to the jail.
Herron has a criminal history dating back to 1998 with charges that include DUI, statutory/ aggravated rape, drug crimes, theft and violation of probation. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED 5/31/2023- 6AM)