I know. I know. You're astounded. "But, Ken, won't they throw you out of the Prosecutor's Club if you don't swoop in like a vulture over the defenseless corpse of an unrepresented defendant?"
Not really. Whether ya'll like to hear it or not, most of the time you defense attorneys make things run much smoother in a courtroom (oh, great, I just sent all the true believers off to burn their Bar cards and withdraw from all their criminal cases). Sure, ya'll can be pesky with your constitutional arguments and insistence that I provide proof that your client is guilty. However, therein also lies the great advantage of having a defense attorney present. You know the law; you know procedure; you know the judge; you know a good deal when it's offered. Even if we can't agree on a disposition, I know that when I try a 30 minute reckless driving bench trial with you it will be a 30 minute reckless driving bench trial.
What do I gain if there's no defense attorney? Not much. Most of the time my case has been investigated by officers and investigators who were at the scene. My evidence isn't going to change much whether the defendant is represented or not. That's not to say there aren't any possible issues. Maybe ProSe doesn't raise a constitutional issue. Maybe ProSe will miss a statutory right, like Virginia's speedy trial statute. Maybe ProSe won't object if I break an evidentiary rule.
Of course, experience teaches that none of these things happen (at least not for me).
Pro se defendants, particularly those in jail/prison, raise all sorts of constitutional arguments. The problem is that often they are asserting constitutional rights which you, I, the judge, and even the Founding Fathers never heard of. They'll raise constitutional arguments which were fought over and well settled 25 years ago (against their position). Of course, sometimes the 40 page, hand-written
The same sort of thing happens with statutory rights. It's not uncommon to receive painstakingly hand written motions asserting that 18 USC 1234 gives defendant this procedural right or that, per State v. Smith, 2011 WY 12, ¶44-45 (explaining Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 99-01-2009), he enjoys that substantive right. Of course, none of this is relevant in Virginia. Even when they do argue Virginia law they're usually off somewhere in left field, trying to assert something which got changed in the law 5 years ago.
So, we've slogged through all that (or perhaps it's a misdemeanor and we haven't had to go through all of it). Comes now the day of trial. I brace myself for a trial that's going to take 3 times longer than it should. I call Officer Smith and he gives his testimony. Then Judge lets ProSe cross. Of course, ProSe doesn't cross - he starts telling his story. Judge corrects him, telling him he'll get a chance to do that later. ProSe asks a couple questions and, when he gets an answer he doesn't like, turns to the Judge: "Now, that just isn't right, Judge. It happened like this . . ." Judge has to keep reminding him to ask questions - not testify. This scene is repeated several times before the prosecution completes it's case in chief.
Next, Defendant calls his witnesses. I stand there trying to keep my peace, because I know objections will just prolong the torture and the judge is going to give ProSe a good deal of latitude anyway. Finally, it's too much and I just have to object. Usually, it's a question like, "Didn't you hear Bobby say May told him that on November 5th at 3:45 p.m. Mike used an extension ladder to climb to a second story window, in the back of the house, break the window, and go downstairs and steal the jewelry from the right middle drawer in the guest bedroom of Joe's house, so I couldn't possibly have been the one who stole them?" It's either object or have my brain explode in the middle of court. The judge tries to explain to ProSe why he can't ask that question, but ProSe doesn't get it and tries to ask the same question 4 more times, each with a slight variation.
Finally, the case is over. It took forever, clogged a docket, got where it would have a long time ago if there'd been a defense attorney, and frustrated the living daylights out of me. Give me a regular old trial with a defense attorney any day.