Island County judge allows accused grandfather killer to represent himself
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
October 18, 2011 · Updated 3:48 PM
The 30-year-old Oak Harbor man suspected of killing both his grandfathers insisted on acting as his own attorney, despite a judge’s repeated warnings against the idea.
Joshua Lambert appeared in Island County Superior Court Monday afternoon for his arraignment. He pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping.
Prior to the hearing, Lambert sent letters to the prosecutor and a judge, alerting them that he wants to represent himself. Defendants have a constitutional right to self-representation, but it’s rare for someone charged with a felony to act as his or her own lawyer.
Judge Alan Hancock took great pains to explain to Lambert the difficulties and consequences of representing himself. Hancock explained that the rules of evidence and criminal procedure were very difficult to understand; he pointed out that attorneys go through seven years of higher education. Lambert has a GED.
Lambert admitted he didn’t completely understand the rules of evidence or criminal procedure, but he said he will look it up.
Hancock questioned Lambert about why he wanted to represent himself.
“I would just like to go through it myself, see everything and make my own decisions,” he said.
In his letter to the judge, Lambert wrote that he doesn’t distrust the public defender, but “wants to think through this” himself, Hancock indicated.
After questioning him, Hancock “strongly urged” Lambert to allow an attorney to represent him.
“I think it is unwise of you to try to represent yourself,” the judge said.
But Lambert was undeterred and Hancock relented, allowing him to represent himself. As his first action as his own attorney, Lambert waived his right to a speedy trial. His trial was set for Jan. 24, 2012.
Afterward, Lambert’s stepfather, Jim Coffin, said he was shocked that his stepson was allowed to represent himself, but he understood that the judge may not have had a choice. Coffin was in the courtroom watching the arraignment, but he said Lambert no longer has support from his family.
“I came home one day and found Gene lying dead in our driveway. So no, he’s not getting any more support,” he said.
Lambert was named as a suspect in the Oct. 3 murder of his maternal grandfather, 80-year-old August Gene Eisner. Eisner had been living in an apartment next to the Hastie Lake home where Coffin lived with his wife, who is Lambert’s mother and Eisner’s daughter.
Lambert was charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 3 death of his paternal grandfather, 80-year-old George Lambert. He was also charged with kidnapping George Lambert’s sister, who lived with her brother at a home outside of Oak Harbor; Lambert’s accused of tying her up with packing tape.
Both Eisner and Lambert were brutally stabbed to death. The prosecutor said the motive for the murders was that he wanted firearms.
Coffin said he always keeps his guns secured in safes, so Lambert wasn’t able to get to them; Lambert pushed over the safe in his garage. He said he doesn’t know what Lambert wanted with the guns.
“What I have to believe, so that I can deal with what happened, is that he had some kind of psychotic break like he had in Alaska,” Coffin said, referring to an inexplicable assault Lambert committed in Kodiak.
Still, he said his stepson’s actions were inexcusable and he must be held accountable.
“To do that to his grandfathers, who both loved him, is just shocking,” he said.
Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.