Finlaw Waives Right to Preliminary Hearing, Wishes to Represent Himself in Court

By Jeremy Coumbes on April 20, 2021 at 1:02pm

A Morgan County man who is accused of first degree murder wishes to represent himself during trial.

21-year-old Dustin Finlaw of Meredosia appeared in Morgan County Court this morning for a scheduled Preliminary Hearing. Finlaw is facing three charges of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of 42-year-old Robert L. Utter that occurred in May 2018 in Meredosia.

Finlaw waived his right to a preliminary hearing this morning and has also asked the court to vacate the appointment of Public Defender Tom Piper as his legal representation.

Finlaw indicated to the court he wishes to “proceed pro se”, or represent himself in court. Morgan County Circuit Judge Chris Reif told Finlaw that he would not vacate the appointment of Piper until he could inform Finlaw of the ramifications he faces in representing himself and that he was not adequately prepared to do so at this time.

Reif then reviewed with Finlaw the nature of waiving his right to a preliminary hearing and the possible penalties he faces. Finlaw acknowledged that he did understand and proceeded with his request to waive the hearing.

A plea of not guilty on all charges was entered. Judge Reif set the trial for the June jury call at 9:00 am on June 2nd. Reif also set a hearing for May 4th at 2:30 pm for consideration of Finlaw’s request to represent himself and possibly vacate the appointment of Public Defender Piper.

If found guilty of the murder charges, Finlaw faces 20 to 60 years in prison without possibility of early release. Finlaw also is facing charges of aggravated assault on two police officers, resisting arrest, and obstructing justice by destroying evidence in relation to his later arrest in connection to the homicide.