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Accused Highland Park shooter to represent himself in February trial

Accused Highland Park shooter to act as his own attorney
Accused Highland Park shooter to act as his own attorney 02:18

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The accused Highland Park parade shooter plans to represent himself when his murder case goes to trial in February.

In a surprise move on Monday, Robert Crimo III fired his attorneys and invoked his right to a speedy trial, moving up his trial date by a year. His trial is now set to begin on Feb. 26, 2024.

Crimo, 23, is accused of opening fire in downtown Highland Park during the Fourth of July parade last year, killing seven people and wounding dozens more.

He has been indicted on a total of 117 counts, including 21 counts of first-degree murder - three counts for each person who died - along with 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery - one for each surviving victim who was struck by a bullet, bullet fragment, or shrapnel, according to Lake County prosecutors.    

He's also charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery.

Crimo was in court Monday for what was supposed to be a case management conference. The judge had been preparing for a February 2025 trial date before Crimo requested a speedy trial, effectively moving up the start of his trial by one year. He also said he plans to serve as his own attorney.

"Why do I think he asked for a speedy trial? I think he asked for a speedy trial to show that he is in control," said CBS 2 legal analyst Irv Miller.

Miller said he believes prosecutors will be ready to present their case in two months.

"In a case like this, they would be prepared for anything, and although this is highly unusual, but it does happen," he said.

Crimo will now play a more direct role in jury selection, by having the judge ask questions on his behalf.

But jurors will hear from him directly during the trial.

"I think it's an easy case to prepare, and an easy case to put on for the state," Miller said. "He will be able to speak to the jurors during opening statements, and cross-examine the witnesses in front of the jury, and also give a closing statement at the end of the trial."

What help will Crimo, who has no legal training, get in preparing for his trial?

"As of today, no help; not from any attorneys, not from the judge," Miller said.

The judge could appoint a standby attorney to advise Crimo on courtroom procedures.

The trial, the judge noted, is probably going to take 4 to 6 weeks, and involve numerous witnesses. Jury selection could take 7 to 10 days.

If convicted at trial, Crimo would face a sentence of up to life in prison.

Meantime, Crimo's  father last month began a 60-day prison sentence, after pleading guilty to seven misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct. Lake County prosecutors have said Crimo's father should have known his son was a danger to the public when he applied for a Firearm Owners' Identification card. Crimo was only 19 at the time, and needed a parent to sign his application. 

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