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Suspect in La. killings wants his attorney fired

PORT ALLEN, La. -- A man suspected of seven killings in southern Louisiana interrupted testimony in his first murder trial yesterday to ask a judge to fire his court-appointed attorney.

Derrick Todd Lee met with the judge, his defense attorney, and prosecutors Thursday evening to speak in private about the quality of Lee's defense. He brought it up in open court yesterday.

"My life [is] on the line here," Lee said, animatedly pointing to the family of Geralyn DeSoto, the 21-year-old woman he is accused of stabbing to death. "I want those people to find out the truth about what happened to their daughter."

Judge Robin Free told him he could not fire a public defender, and suggested Lee work out a solution over the weekend with the attorney, Tommy Thompson, and other lawyers on the defense team.

With the jury out of the courtroom, Lee said Thompson lied to him and was not properly representing him.

"People I asked him to subpoena that could prove my innocence . . . that can prove my alibi, he didn't do it," Lee said.

Thompson said that he has been doing everything he could and that he advised Lee that certain things would not help the defense, even if Lee wanted them done. "I respect his frustration," Thompson said. "But I know in my heart that I've gone over and above."

The exchange interrupted testimony by coroner Alfredo Suarez about DeSoto's killing. Suarez said he measured a knife found in Lee's sport-utility vehicle and it was about the same size and width of a deep stab wound in the victim's back.

During earlier testimony, close-up pictures of the stab wounds were shown to he jury, and DeSoto's husband, Darren, testified how he found her body, lying in a pool of blood, when he returned home Jan. 14, 2002.

He said he saw a shotgun on the bed next to his wife's body and did not know whether she had committed suicide or an accident had occurred. "I noticed her face was swollen and bruised. I turned her head a little bit and at that moment, I saw her throat was cut wide open," DeSoto said.

Lee, 35, faces second-degree murder charges in the killing. If convicted, he will be sentenced to life in prison. In addition, Lee has been linked by DNA evidence to seven women's deaths.

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