Jury seated after unusual day of questioning in Speaks trial

Jury seated after unusual day of questioning in Speaks trial
Terry Speaks, 42 (Source: Kenner Police Department)
Terry Speaks, 42 (Source: Kenner Police Department)

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Acting as his own attorney, the man accused of killing and dismembering a dancer he and his girlfriend met in the French Quarter began questioning potential jurors Monday afternoon. The unusual day ended after 12 were selected.

Terry Speaks, 42, and former girlfriend Margaret Sanchez are accused of killing Jaren Lockhart in 2012. Surveillance video shows Lockhart leaving a French Quarter club with the couple the last time she was seen alive.

Appearing before Judge Stephen Grefer, Speaks was advised against self-representation. Grefer made every effort to ensure that Speaks, who has a high school education, understood the ramifications, saying he would be given no special privileges while going up against experienced attorneys.

Earlier in the month, Speaks asked to fire attorney John Benz, claiming he hadn't put forth sufficient effort in Speaks' defense. Benz will continue to advise Speaks as standby counsel. If Speaks changes his mind during the trial, attorneys can take over representation.

During jury selection prosecutor Doug Freese warned potential jurors that he would object anytime Speaks stepped out of the scope of a lawyer while trying his own case.

"Every time Terry Speaks stands before you and says something I couldn't say as a lawyer, we're going to object," Freese said. "You must disregard any comment he makes unless it comes from the witness stand. Unless that happens any words that come from his mouth mean nothing."

As Speaks addressed the first panel of jurors, he seemed to acknowledge the challenge of acting as his own attorney.

"The DA did a really good job, but remember I'm innocent until he proves me guilty," Speaks said.

During questioning of the second panel of jurors, Speaks warned them against speculation, using the analogy of a child who is accused of stealing cookies even though there are no crumbs on him.

"Speculation," Speaks said. "I just learned that word myself."

The jury of eight woman and six men was seated Monday evening. Opening statements were slated to being Tuesday.

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