NEW PORT RICHEY — Falguni Patel was just a little ways into her testimony Wednesday when it all became too much.
The prosecutor showed Patel the knife used by the masked robber who held up her convenience store in 2009. Patel, already shaking and on the verge of tears, flopped back in the witness chair, unconscious.
Circuit Judge Michael Andrews had the jury taken out of the room. A bailiff called for an ambulance.
Then everyone waited. It was the defendant who finally spoke up, wondering aloud if Patel was breathing.
She was. She had fainted.
Another bailiff brought in a family member, who in an apparent attempt to revive Patel, removed a sneaker and held it up to her face, perhaps like smelling salts. The woman told bailiffs that Patel is prone to fainting and she frequently uses this technique to revive her.
Patel didn't wake up.
After paramedics arrived, Patel was wheeled out on a stretcher and reported to be resting at home in the afternoon. She is expected to take the stand again today.
This all happened during day two of the trial of 32-year-old Morgan Armstrong, charged with armed robbery in the October 2009 holdup at Beverages Plus on State Road 52 in Hudson.
Against the advice of the judge and attorneys, Armstrong is representing himself. He went to trial earlier this year in another convenience store robbery, represented by a lawyer who won him a not guilty verdict.
But in time Armstrong came to believe the lawyer was working against him with prosecutors, and now insists on going it alone.
He was no less suspicious of those in the courtroom Wednesday.
"I'm absolutely positive you people have done nothing but violate my due process," Armstrong declared before reading a long missive on the topic.
When Assistant State Attorney Ryan McGee called a deputy to testify about searching with his police dog for the robber around the convenience store, Armstrong asked just one question.
"Did you find anybody?" Armstrong asked.
The answer was no.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @mollymoorhead.