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Suspect swears off legal aid

With yet another shuffle in the defense team likely to occur, murder suspect Willis Register's rocky road to trial has taken another twist.

Register, 24, recently filed a hand-written motion asking Circuit Judge Hale Stancil to let him to dismiss his current attorney, former county judge Gary Graham.

After dumping four previous lawyers, Register says he will represent himself. But prosecutors are reluctant to see that happen.

Assistant State Attorney Don Scaglione would not comment on Register's motions Thursday. In the past, though, he has said that if Register is allowed to represent himself, the case will most assuredly have to be retried. That will mean even more expense to the taxpayers, who are paying the bills for the prosecution and the defense.

Register could not be reached for comment Thursday, and Graham routinely refuses to talk to the press.

Stancil is expected to resolve the matter at a court hearing Wednesday.

Also to be resolved is a request by Register that the trial take place within 60 days. He denies ever signing anything to waive his right to a speedy trial, and he wants that right restored.

Register is charged with first degree murder and two counts of attempted murder, stemming from a shooting rampage that took place March 22, 1994, in Crystal River. Prosecutors say Register shot Johnny Lemon to death, wounded Gerlene Rowell and tried to kill Melodine Lemon.

Prosecutors have the option of seeking the death penalty, but they have not said whether they will.

Register recently fired court-appointed attorneys Fred Ohlinger and Mark Shelnutt because of disagreements he had with their defense strategy. He fired court-appointed attorneys Chip Harp and Jim Brown because he didn't know them and was unfamiliar with their abilities.

Register asked specifically to be represented by Graham. Graham was appointed after he agreed to handle the case for free.

In what may be his last arguments on behalf of Register, Graham was in a hearing Thursday responding to a motion filed by attorney Jim Neal to stop Register from being transported to a psychiatrist in Gainesville.

Neal, whose office represents the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, objected to Register's being transported because details about Register's travel arrangements were made public and could have made it possible for him to escape.

Graham argued that the Sheriff's Office was interfering with his ability to represent Register by asking for changes at the last minute.

Stancil ordered that Register's travel arrangements be rescheduled and kept secret.