Judge denies parents charged with child neglect to represent themselves

Posted at 7:46 PM, Mar 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-16 00:01:38-04

A Palm Beach County judge denied a request for a couple charged with child neglect to represent themselves in court.

In December, deputies found their five children malnourished and living in a car outside a Greenacres Walmart.

Both Rikki Hart and Donell Barron remain in jail on a $5,000 bond each.

In a hearing that lasted about 20 minutes, the couple barely answered the judge's questions.

Back in jail jumpsuits, Hart and Barron remained defiant before the judge. “Do you want to represent yourself Mr Barron?” asked Judge Samantha Feuer. Barron replied, “[I'm a ... representing Donell Barron because Donell Barron is a corporation]”

Judge Feuer also asked Hart several times, “My question is just really a yes or no question,” she said. “Are you able to communicate with your lawyer, yes or no? That's it. Just yes or no.” Hart, replied, “Well is this an offer?”

The couple argue they're members of a Native American tribe and not subject to Florida law.

Barron said to one of the judge’s questions, “[I'm an authorized representative… Donell Barron for the record.]”

Hart, also, replied to the judge, “[I am a living woman.. this land and I want to place on the record that I am an authorized representative.]”

But after a volley of questioning, the judge left the pair's court-appointed lawyers on the case. “I am finding you are not competent to represent yourself and a public defender will remain on your case,” said Judge Feuer. “

On Monday, only NewsChannel 5 was there when the couple was led back to jail after a bondsman surrendered their bail.

Despite a GoFundMe effort to help the pair find work and a place to live, they remained homeless.

The bond agency no longer wanted to chance whether the couple would try to leave the area and escape their problems.

The couple faces five counts of child neglect, one for each of their five children.

The pair is due back in court on April 17.

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