tampabay.com

Courtroom antics don't pay off

A man is convicted of robbery despite the feces and razor.

By Colleen Jenkins, Times Staff Writer
Published February 15, 2008


TAMPA - Faking a mental illness didn't get Robert Sinclaire Lee very far.

The man who brought feces to a courtroom in hopes of proving his incompetence to stand trial received a life prison sentence Thursday.

Jurors found him guilty of multiple felony counts stemming from an attempted murder and robbery at a Temple Terrace restaurant in October 2006.

Afterward, they praised attorneys on both sides for their trial work, having no clue just how unpredictable things had been this week.

"This," prosecutor Chinwe Fossett told jurors, "was an unusual one."

Lee, 27, was classified as a habitual felony offender. He managed to delay his trial for months after smuggling a razor into a courtroom and using it to cut his wrist on one occasion and smearing feces on his face on another.

But doctors who examined him said he was malingering.

Attorneys picked a jury Monday. On Tuesday, Lee complained he couldn't function because of medication taken at the jail. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Robert Foster delayed the proceedings for a day to have Lee re-examined.

Again, a doctor found him competent. Wednesday morning, Lee refused to participate and created a ruckus as he kicked the door of his holding cell.

Foster left the bench to inform Lee that the trial was about to start. When the judge returned, he said the inmate had disrobed. Bailiffs took Lee back to jail.

He behaved calmly during the final day of trial.

"The bailiffs did an excellent job, searching him to make sure he didn't bring anything into the courtroom," said prosecutor Dereck Capaz.

Jurors heard that Lee had held employees hostage inside the Panda Express at 8416 N 56th St. and demanded money.

A deliveryman thwarted the robbery, exchanging gunfire with Lee, who was wounded.

Lee's attorney, Ronnie James, argued that Lee's gun accidentally discharged after he was shot.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or 813 226-3337.