Judge Defers Defendant’s Motion to Represent Himself in Mark Carson Murder Trial

The impromptu memorial that sprung up at the site of Mark Carson’s West Village murder in 2013. | DONNA ACETO

The impromptu memorial that sprung up at the site of Mark Carson’s West Village murder in 2013. | DONNA ACETO

A Manhattan judge postponed a decision on allowing the accused killer of Mark Carson to represent himself at hearings and at his trial and instead assigned Elliot Morales a fourth attorney, saying he would decide Morales’ motion to go pro se later.

Morales, 35, is charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime, weapons possession, and menacing in the 2013 shooting. Allegedly, he followed Carson and a friend in the West Village. After taunting them with anti-gay slurs, he asked Carson, “Are you with him?” and when Carson answered, “Yes,” Morales allegedly shot the 32-year-old Carson.

Since his arrest, which came minutes after the shooting, Morales has gone through three attorneys and filed at least one letter and three motions with Charles H. Solomon, the judge in the case. Morales has said he wants to represent himself since at least April of 2014.

With competency hearing set for February 10, Elliot Morales instead assigned fourth attorney in 2013 case

At a January 14 hearing, Morales complained that his attorneys had not obtained records that he needs for his defense and that the district attorney’s office had not yet turned over the contents of his cell phone, which has names and phone numbers of possible defense witnesses as well as sexual content that he wants to view.

“This case has a lot to do with sexuality,” Morales said at that hearing.

Solomon told Morales that he was entitled to the records regarding the case that he wants, but is not entitled to see them until the start of pre-trial hearings. Shannon Lucey, the assistant district attorney on the case, said that Morales refused to surrender his cell phone password for months and that her office only had access to its content for about 30 days.

Solomon said he would hold a hearing on January 16 to determine if Morales is competent to surrender his right to a lawyer and to represent himself, but changed his mind on that day.

“I’m not going to make it,” Solomon said of a decision allowing Morales to go pro se at the second hearing. “I’m going to give him a different lawyer… I think it’s a very bad idea to represent yourself.”

Morales said, “Can I object to you assigning me another attorney?”

Solomon said, “You can object all you want, I don’t want a problem later on… I’m trying to tell you it’s a terrible idea.”

Solomon will decide if Morales is competent on February 10. Gary Sunden, Morales’ new lawyer, declined comment.

Morales faces daunting evidence in the case. He made roughly 20 statements to police and admitted to the killing in six. He was arrested within minutes of the shooting and he was carrying the pistol that was used to kill Carson. Four witnesses identified him at the time of the shooting. Another witness, who may be among the four, was on the phone with 911 when Carson was shot.

“He shot a man in the head while his friend was on the phone with 911 trying to stop the violence,” Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, then the prosecutor in the case, said at a hearing last year.

The Carson killing is the second violent felony that Morales has been charged with. In 1998, Morales and two other men, John Kehinde, then 17, and Daniel Olivencia, then 18, beat, bound, and robbed three young women in an East Village apartment.

Morales wielded a machete in that attack. Morales and Olivencia choked the women, with Morales saying, “I’m going to put her to sleep,” according to court records in the case. They also hit the women with a metal pipe.

Charged with attempted murder, multiple robbery and burglary counts, and assault, Morales pleaded guilty to robbery in 1999 and was sentenced to six to 12 years in prison. He served 10 years.