Local News

Petrick Asks To Serve As Own Legal Counsel

Posted July 5, 2005 7:06 a.m. EDT

— More than two years after he was first arrested for killing his wife and dumping her body in a lake, a Durham man returned to court Tuesday to ask if he could represent himself.

Robert Petrick told a judge Tuesday that he and his court-appointed lawyer, Mark Edwards, disagree on legal issues and just do not get along.

"The relationship has broken down and we can't work together effectively," Petrick said.

Police arrested Petrick in 2003 for the murder of his wife, Janine Sutphen, a cellist with the Durham Symphony, who was found wrapped in a tarp, tied in duct tape and floating in Falls Lakes. The medical examiner concluded she had been suffocated and wrapped in sleeping bags with her legs chained.

The judge reminded Petrick of the saying that, "A man who represents himself has a fool for a client," but Petrick, who has maintained his innocence and rejected attempts at a plea deal, insisted on representing himself not guilty.

"I would prefer to try and represent myself," he said.

Lawyers had hoped to go to trial in the fall, but now they are not sure what will happen.

In addition to the murder charge, Petrick also faces several counts of fraud in connection with the murder case. A trial on some of the fraud charges is scheduled for the end of July. Petrick said he did not know if he would be up to speed, but the judge told him he had better be ready.

If Petrick is convicted of first-degree murder, he would face the possibility of life in prison. The district attorney's office is not seeking the death penalty.