Susan Polk Goes It Alone (Again)

Susan Polk severed perhaps her closest connection to the outside world when she fired case manager Valerie Harris yesterday in the midst of court proceedings. Though Harris didn’t see it coming, she called her departure “amicable” and didn’t rule out a return to the Contra Costa superior courtroom as an observer.

“I really do wish her the best of luck,” said Harris, who joined Polk’s defense with attorneys Daniel Horowitz and Ivan Golde.

In January, following the murder of Horowitz’s wife Pamela Vitale, Polk fired Horowitz and Golde but asked Harris to stay on. Polk has represented herself without co-counsel since her trial for the murder of her husband Felix Polk began on Mar. 7.

Since Harris isn’t a licensed attorney, she is not constrained by attorney-client privilege when speaking publicly about Polk’s legal defense. Even so, her comments just hours after leaving Polk’s side for the last time reflect an abiding loyalty to the defendant.

Harris said earlier in the trial she gave Polk an LSAT preparation book. “I told her when she gets out [of jail], she should go to law school,” she said. “She’s done some cross-examination that’s as good as any I’ve seen, lawyer or not.”

One reason for the timing of Harris’ dismissal may be that deputy DA Paul Sequiera appears to be wrapping up his case, and Polk is “well-prepared” for her defense, Harris said. Harris credited Polk for drawing out damaging information about Felix Polk from prosecution witnesses, statements Harris believes may help Susan Polk’s defense.

“Don’t forget, this is just the prosecution case. [Polk] hasn’t told her side yet,” Harris said.

Whether or not she attends the remainder of Polk’s trial, Harris said she hasn’t decided whether she will continue updating her Web site, where Harris has documented sensational legal dramas, including the Scott Dyleski prosecution, the Scott Peterson trial and the “Wendy’s finger-in-the-chili case.” According to a page view counter on the site, has registered almost 200,000 hits to date.

— Matthew Hisrch


4 Responses to “Susan Polk Goes It Alone (Again)”

  1. Jay B. Gaskill Says:


    The next problem for this unfortunate trial judge will be when Polk appears to testify during her closing argument. The DA will object; Ms. Polk will be admonished; she will repeat the offense; ultimately the jury will be instructed to ignore the offending parts of Polk’s argument. The problem is almost insoluble: Even a less loosely wrapped defendant will slip into saying “I acted in self defense” or “I didn’t do the murder” instead of “the evidence shows that the defendant did not….” and so on.


  2. Matthew Hirsch Says:

    It's kind of amazing to me that the courts haven't dealt more thoroughly with the issues of self-representation in criminal trials that are being raised by Susan Polk. During my research for an article that appeared yesterday in The Recorder and on Cal Law, one source said the trial of Abbie Hoffman and the Chicago Seven was the most recent high-profile criminal trial he could remember in which the defendants represented themselves. See the article, called "Pro Per Cases Full of Judicial Pitfalls," for more commentary from Jay Gaskill.

  3. John Wunder Says:

    Ms. Polk is an idiot, or she is deliberately sabotaging her own trial to set up some BS argument on appeal. Ms. Polk appears to hope that her pro per status is revoked, and when some poor attorney gets stuck to continue the trial, Ms. Polk will undoubtedly argue on appeal (I hope she gets convicted) that she wasn’t properly represented. Unfortunately, the Court cannot do much with her by way of punishment for her unbelievable antics as she is already in custody–and so the nonsense continues.

  4. Donna Higgs Says:

    Unless a person has been in her shoes, experienced the type of controlling relationship that she has had to live with since she was only a child, they can not truely understand. But I know first hand how it feels to be in her shoes. And my children, one especially could not see what I was really going through, and to this day she still doesn’t understand. And hopefully she will never have to experience it first hand. But I believe that is the only way to truely know what Susan went through. I knew when I left that if I had come back into the house, I was going to die. And I wanted to live! But I am sure that I would have done the same thing she did, it was the point where she knew she was going to live or die. Susan you go girl! But I wish you would let someone help you.

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