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Gurnee stabbing suspect decides against being a lawyer

Zervont Thomas

Zervont Thomas

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Updated: February 27, 2013 3:11AM

The Waukegan man accused of fatally stabbing one man and stabbing a teen has decided against acting as his own attorney.

Zervont Thomas, 20, has no higher education than a high school degree. He told Lake County Circuit Judge John Phillips last week that he was considering firing his court-appointed attorney, John Murphy.

Thomas is facing up to 60 years in prison for first-degree murder. He is accused of murdering Stefan Metel, 33, of Round Lake, and for stabbing a 17-year-old male passenger in front of a Gurnee car dealership in August 2011.

Thomas was before Phillips on Friday morning to announce his decision.

“I decided I wanted a different lawyer ... I don’t feel like my life is in good hands right now,” Thomas said, referring to Murphy.

Murphy has incurred zero disciplinary issues in the 15-plus years he has been an attorney, according to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. His law practice focuses on criminal defense.

Thomas complained again about the length and frequency of Murphy’s visits to him in jail to discuss the case. He said he intended to hire a private defense attorney. He said he is waiting to hear back from a few relatives to see how much they will get from their tax returns to help fund a new lawyer.

“You have absolutely tied the hands of your attorney to do anything for you by saying you don’t want him to represent you,” Phillips told Thomas.

Phillips said he would give Thomas until Jan. 22 to hire a new attorney.

“I don’t want to see you on the 22nd and you say you haven’t talked to anybody. I urge you to have your parents present,” Phillips said.

Thomas’ mother, Bernadette Adams, was present at Friday’s hearing. She said her son was alleging ineffective assistance of counsel before Phillips.

“We are getting another lawyer,” Adams said.

Like her son, she said she had difficulty getting ahold of Murphy.

“I do feel for the victim’s family ... (but) Zervont is a good kid. I don’t care what anybody says. It (the stabbing incident) should have never happened the way it happened,” Adams said.

Thomas’ trial was rescheduled from Jan. 22 to Feb. 25. He remains in custody at Lake County Jail.

Murphy left the hearing without making a comment.

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