Local News

UNC Hit-And-Run Suspect Decides Not To Represent Himself

Posted September 19, 2006

— A man accused of using a sport utility vehicle to run over students at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in March has decided to accept a lawyer.

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    UNC Hit-And-Run Suspect Decides Not To Represent Himself

    Mohammed Taheri-azar told Judge Carl Fox on Tuesday that a psychologist had evaluated him as competent to stand trial. Fox told the defendant that accepting an appointed lawyer was in his best interests.

    When asked if he believes that Taheri-azar is competent to stand trial, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said, "His lawyer, who's very experienced and has been working with him, indicates that he is, and everything I've seen indicates that he is. I don't think there's any question about competency."

    Taheri-azar's mother, father and two sisters were in the courtroom as Taheri-azar answered the judge's questions. Public Defender James Williams later noted his client's positive change in attitude.

    "I think to a large extent it's an improvement in his mental condition," said Williams.

    Taheri-azar faces a total of 18 charges of assault and attempted murder. Nine people were injured when, authorities say, Taheri-azar drove the vehicle to the UNC "Pit" -- a popular gathering place for students in the center of the campus.

    Authorities said Taheri-azar admitted to them that he tried to kill people as payback for the deaths of Muslims around the world. He said his first choice was to use a handgun, but he decided to use a vehicle because it was easier, authorities said.

    In his last court appearance, he had told the judge he wanted to speak for himself as his own attorney.

    "I find simply speaking the truth is not a difficult thing to do, and I intend to do it for the court," he said.

    Taheri-azar is being held in Central Prison in Raleigh. His next court appearance is set for Dec. 12, when he'll enter a plea in the case and a trial date will be set. Williams said his client likely will plead not guilty. If convicted, he could face up to 100 years in prison.

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