COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A bizarre scene played out at Cook County's main criminal courthouse when an alleged mugger representing himself at his trial stripped naked and refused to come out of a holding cell, leading the judge to bring the trial to him.
With a court reporter in tow, Judge Stanley Sacks held a brief hearing at the behind-the-scenes jail cell, with defendant Ibn Mujaahid sitting on a bench wearing only his glasses and socks, according to transcripts obtained by DNAinfo Chicago.
By the end of the trial, Mujaahid got two members of the jury to side with him, leading to a hung jury and a mistrial.
Mujaahid, 34, of the South Side, was accused of attempted armed robbery in a Jan. 10 stickup of a man in the 6100 block of South Morgan.
Mujaahid chose to serve as his own attorney at his trial late last month, putting on a suit and arguing his innocence before a jury. For two days, he participated in jury selection, cross-examined witnesses, filed motions and tried to poke holes in the prosecution's case against him.
But on the trial's final day, Sept. 25, he stripped and refused to come out of the courthouse lockup, going both pro se and au naturel.
"Mr. Mujaahid, he doesn't want to come out. We are not going to drag him out," Judge Sacks said, according to the transcript.
Mujaahid had strewn his clothes around the holding cell, where defendants in custody are temporarily held before being brought into court.
So Sacks brought the hearing to the lockup to ensure Mujaahid's right to be present at his trial wasn't violated. With a court reporter typing away, the judge warned the naked Mujaahid the trial would proceed without him if he refused to get dressed and come into the courtroom.
The "defendant's in the lockup for Courtroom 602 by himself. There's no other prisoner back here. He's back here by himself, and currently he's sitting on the bench. He's naked except for his glasses and his socks," said Sacks, making Mujaahid's actions part of the court record.
Mujaahid claimed to be hearing voices and asked for a psychiatric evaluation. But the judge called Mujaahid's behavior a ruse and a mental health expert later determined he was faking and found him fit to stand trial.
"I merely think you were attempting to avoid finishing the trial because once you heard the evidence against you, you decided you did not want to go further with the case," Sacks said to Mujaahid while agreeing to summon someone from the Psychiatry Division.
A doctor came, spoke with Mujaahid, and testified in court about his mental state.
"There is no evidence to suggest that he has a bona fide impairment that would preclude him from being able to understand the nature of his charge ... and to maintain appropriate courtroom demeanor if he chooses to do so," Dr. Nishad Nadkarni testified, according to the transcript.
"We'll finish the case without him. That's all," Sacks said.
The trial concluded without Mujaahid. But evidently he had already won over two of the 12 jurors, unconvinced Mujaahid had a gun on the night in question. With a hung jury, a mistrial was declared.
A second trial on the charges will be held.