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Judge: Man accused of murder can represent himself

jojacobs@vagazette.com

A man charged with first-degree murder will be allowed to represent himself in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court.

Michael Alan Webb, 35, had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of his mother Edna Webb at an arraignment held in January, where the judge had declined Webb’s initial request to represent himself.

Edna Webb was found dead in her Brookside Haven townhome May 17, 2017, after suffering blunt force trauma, according to James City County Police.

At Wednesday’s motions hearing, Webb got his wish for self-representation.

“Mr. Webb still wants to represent himself,” said J. Terry Osborne, who had represented Webb. “I’m unable to direct him at all.”

Webb said Osborne had been “unprofessional” in their interactions. Webb had also indicated he believed only he could best represent himself at the arraignment and echoed that sentiment again Wednesday.

“I feel like I represent myself better,” Webb said. “I feel I am more than competent to represent myself.”

The judge granted the motion to withdraw counsel but appointed a standby counsel, a lawyer who will be able to advise Webb but won’t represent him in court.

A defendant has a constitutional right to represent himself in legal proceedings but a judge can deny it if the defendant is deemed unable to adequately represent himself.

Wednesday’s proceedings focused on the police visit to Webb’s residence when Edna Webb still hadn’t reported to work about an hour after she was scheduled to arrive.

Mary Walker, Edna Webb’s supervisor at Eastern State Hospital, said it was highly unusual for Edna Webb to be late to work and became worried about her.

“Edna did not miss many days of work,” Walker said. “When she didn’t show up to work I was very concerned.”

Walker said her employee had said in the past that her son had mental health issues and the two Webbs had a strained relationship.

“He felt she was against him,” Walker said.

Walker called the Webb residence and spoke to a man who identified himself as Michael Webb. The man said Edna Webb was asleep and he refused to wake her. Soon after that Walker called the police.

James City Police Department officers arrived at Webb’s residence at around 10 a.m. to conduct a welfare check on Edna Webb. Officers entered the house through an unlocked backdoor after no one responded to their knocking. They discovered a dead woman wrapped in blankets in the kitchen but found no one else in the house.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Nate Green conceded the officers entered the house without a warrant but argued the circumstances made entry necessary.

“They had good reason,” Green said.

Webb called the entry unconstitutional. The judge determined the entry to have been necessary and denied Webb’s unlawful entry motion.

“The officer cannot just enter your home,” Webb said. “They felt it was easier to enter my house rather than go through the process.”

Another motions hearing has been scheduled for 1 p.m. on March 5 to allow Webb to present additional motions regarding what he called his unlawful arrest and unlawful evidence gathering.

Webb’s trial is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. March 27.

Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.

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