SAN RAFAEL, Calif. – A man charged with killing four Northern California women who had matching first and last initials is asking for a court-appointed attorney to help him defend himself in what is expected to be a death penalty case.
Joseph Naso, 77, has been acting as his own attorney since May, when a judge ruled he was competent to do so and understood the potential pitfalls. Naso had argued that he knew the case better than anyone else and didn't want to exhaust his financial resources on attorneys.
But he told a judge Wednesday that his incarceration at the Marin County Jail has limited his ability to conduct legal research. Naso also said he is having trouble digesting the case law, and the publicity his case has generated has scared away attorneys who could help him.
"I'm confronted with these issues that are acting as a great impediment to my defense," he said. "I'm in a cell 23 hours a day and do not have the liberty to review law books, as I would prefer."
He asked Judge Andrew Sweet to appoint an attorney to his case. Sweet is expected to continue hearing arguments about the request Thursday before issuing a ruling on Friday.
Naso has almost $1 million in assets, including a home in Reno, Nev., and can afford to hire his own attorney and not have one appointed by the court, District Attorney Ed Berberian told Sweet.
Nevada officials recently released $150,000 of Naso's money that they had frozen as part of a separate investigation, according to Berberian.
The public defender's office previously said it does not believe Naso would qualify for taxpayer funded counsel.
Naso is accused of murdering four prostitutes in the 1970s and 1990s throughout Northern California: Roxene Roggasch, Carmen Colon, Pamela Parsons and Tracy Tafoya. He has pleaded not guilty.
Authorities around the country are also looking at Naso as a suspect in more cold cases.
Authorities said Naso kept a numbered list of 10 women — including the four prostitutes he is charged with killing — and news clippings of the crimes in a safety deposit box. Investigators have also said they found numerous nude photos of women who appeared to be dead or passed out, along with logs and journals at his home and in a safety deposit box.
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