Cold-Case Suspect Joseph Naso Asks to Represent Self

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (AP) - An elderly Nevada man charged with killing four women whose bodies were found in rural areas across Northern California asked a judge Wednesday if he could act as his own lawyer, saying he would like to personally review the evidence before entering a plea.

Joseph Naso, 77, addressed the court for the first time during the brief hearing in Marin County Superior Court.

"I've given this case a lot of thought, and I've been alone in my cell for weeks," Naso said in a clear, firm voice. "I've decided, looking at the big picture and everything I'm facing, that now I will represent myself."

He appeared composed as he sat in wrist shackles, red-and-white-striped jail shirt and fresh haircut.

Naso is accused of killing four women in the 1970s and 1990s who had matching initials for their first and last names: Carmen Colon, Roxene Roggasch, Pamela Parsons and Tracy Tafoya. Investigators elsewhere in the country are reviewing other cold cases for similarities.

Authorities were still trying to determine if the alliterative names of the victims were part of a killer's deranged pattern or just a coincidence.

In court, Naso said he had no access to private meetings with an attorney while in the Marin County Jail, and therefore wanted a chance to review the evidence.

Naso is charged with four counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances that could make him eligible for the death penalty.

Judge Andrew Sweet took the request into consideration but warned Naso that it could undermine his case if he were allowed to represent himself.

"I'm going to flat-out tell you, it is contrary to your own interests," the judge said. Sweet set another hearing for May 5 to discuss the issue.

Naso was undeterred, telling the court he did not believe he could trust an attorney to advocate for him.

"I want to be assured of ethics and integrity," Naso said. "I want to be the first and only one to have access" to the evidence.

Naso said he had experience in the courtroom and had prevailed in past civil matters.

Nevada court records indicate Naso represented himself in a 2005 case involving Social Security benefits for his mentally ill adult son.

At an April 13 hearing on the murder charges, prosecutors argued that Naso should hire a private attorney, citing evidence that the freelance photographer has nearly $1 million in assets.

Chief Deputy Public Defender David Brown confirmed to the court Wednesday that Naso does not appear to qualify for a taxpayer-funded public defender.

Outside the courtroom, District Attorney Ed Berberian said he was not surprised by Naso's request, and that the defendant has a right to act as his own attorney.

Berberian said the court will have the final say on whether Naso can proceed as his own lawyer.

"I wouldn't argue against it," he said.

The case against Naso, who was living most recently in a ramshackle house near Reno, Nev., was filed after authorities said they found "an enormous magnitude of evidence" while searching his home after a probation violation stemming from a theft conviction.

Nevada authorities formed a task force to investigate him immediately after the search, and the discovery of guns and ammunition put him back in jail for a year on a probation violation. He was arrested in connection with the murders after his release.

Authorities have said notebooks and photographs found in his home linked Naso to the murders.


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