Felon who defended self in court sentenced

Kurt James receives 35 year sentence

Author: John Turchin, Crime Specialist, jturchin@local10.com
Published On: Sep 19 2012 05:27:25 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 19 2012 07:08:01 PM EDT
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -

A convicted felon justified his decision to defend himself in court on carjacking and robbery charges as he learned his fate for those crimes.

"I felt like it was in my best interest,” Kurt James told Local 10 Crime Specialist John Turchin when the two spoke just before the 23-year old was taken back to his cell after he was sentenced. “I ain't felt like nobody was going to put up a fight like I was going to put up a fight."

Prosecutors were seeking 45 years. Instead, Broward Circuit Judge Jeffrey Levenson sentenced James to 25 years on the carjacking charge and 10 years for robbery. The terms will run concurrently.

“This was a very senseless crime -- a very ruthless crime,” Judge Levenson told James, who was dressed in a red jailhouse jumpsuit with his wrists handcuffed and attached to a chain around his waist.

Despite the conviction and the sentence, James was pleased with his performance.

"Yeah, it was all worth it,’ he said. “I have no regrets. I have no regrets at all."

James was charged with one count of armed carjacking and one count of robbery with a firearm, both felonies and punishable by life in prison. He was also facing a couple of misdemeanors.

According to the arrest form, James and two others held up a man at gunpoint as the victim was leaving International Brokers Realty off U.S. 1 and Pembroke Road on October 18, 2010. The victim testified that they got away with an $1,800 watch, his cell phone and a handful of other items.

Records show the trio tried to steal the man’s Mercedes but were unable to figure out how to get it in gear, and left in their own vehicle. They were caught minutes later after a pursuit through several cities.

In August, a jury found James guilty of the lesser charge of carjacking and robbery.

"I'd rather be found guilty by my mistake than somebody else mistake," said James.

James spoke about several items, including why he decided not to take the judge’s advice and hire an attorney. Instead, he acted in his own defense, and one point during the trial, called himself as a witness.

"I know they (lawyers) all stick together. They work with one another. So, I can't trust somebody that sit down and have lunch with the state. How am I going to have somebody represent me that's friends with the state?" said James. "You gonna tell them my whole defense. You gonna tell them what I fixin' to do. So, to eliminate all that, from lettin' the left hand know what the right hand doing, I'm just going to cut the left hand off."

By all accounts, James did alright defending himself. He agreed.

"I think I did a good job,” said James.

But, with no formal education in law or training. Turchin asked him how he knew what to do and what to ask.

"It's all common sense,” insisted James, as he sat at the defense table, a wall separating he and Turchin. “It's all psychology. It's all common sense. It's basic. Ain't nothin' spectacular."

What's next? James has thirty days to file his appeal. Will he hire a lawyer the next time around?

"No. Why? I’ll be back on appeal. However long I go away for, I be back. The fight ain't over,” said James.