The opening of the trial of two men charged in the 2008 shooting death of Philadelphia police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski erupted in an angry in-court exchange in which defendant Eric DeShann Floyd told the trial judge he would rather be executed than represented by his current court-appointed legal team.
"The dude rubs me the wrong way," Floyd, 35, told Common Pleas Court Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes during a loud 20-minute debate about defense attorneys William L. Bowe and Earl G. Kauffman.
Hughes refused Floyd's request and told him Bowe was one of the city's best death-penalty lawyers.
But Floyd would hear none of it, complaining that Bowe was "deceiving him" and refused to call certain witnesses present at the May 3, 2008 bank robbery and the subsequent car chase that ended in Liczbinski's death from multiple gunshots.
"Your lawyers have been trying to prevent [Assistant District Attorney Jude Conroy] from calling those witnesses," the judge said. "They will bury you."
"I don't care, it's my life," Floyd said. "I have the right to represent myself, don't I?"
"You have the right to ask me to represent yourself and I am denying that because you are being irrational," Hughes replied.
The angry argument delayed the beginning of jury selection in the murder trial, which is expected to last this week. A panel of 123 prospective jurors is supposed to be brought into court this afternoon to begin the selection process.
Floyd, of North Philadelphia and Levon T. Warner, 41, of West Philadelphia, are accused of taking part in the May 3, 2008 bank robbery and chase that ended in Port Richmond with Liczbinski's death.
Howard Cain, 33, the alleged mastermind of the bank robbery scheme, who authorities say shot the 12-year-veteran officer, was killed by police after the three split up and he fled on foot.
The District Attorney's office will seek the death penalty if Floyd and Warner are convicted of first-degree murder.
Conroy has argued that Cain's accomplices knew about or handled the high-power Chinese SKS rifle used to shoot Liczbinski and so are equally culpable in his death.