Jurors were seated and the first witness was being questioned in a Pauls Valley courtroom when a lone hand went up in the air and it belonged to the defendant himself.
Delbert Earl McNeill Jr., 56, of Wynnewood, facing drug trafficking allegations, was shaking his head, not satisfied with the way his jury trial was going this week, so he wanted the judge to know he intended to step in and present his own defense.
That's exactly what McNeill did as District Judge Leah Edwards sent an 11-man, one-woman jury out of the courtroom while she led McNeill through the process required for defendants to serve as their own attorney.
McNeill, a former stand-up comic and entertainer who went by the name of Po Lightning, stepped back onto the stage to explain why he was making the move on the first day of his trial in Garvin County District Court.
“The officer is leaving out a whole lot of detail,” McNeill said to the judge, referring to his attorney, Phillip Morton, as he questioned the county deputy, Aaron April, who arrested McNeill last spring.
“I don't want to say he's lying, but he's not telling the truth. I'd love to represent myself.”
The led to jurors being sent from the courtroom for an early break Monday afternoon as the judge asked McNeill several questions after he had filled out the paperwork needed to self-represent.
McNeill said he also represented himself in a Garvin County drug case back in 2003 and five worker compensation cases.
He was allowed to serve as his own attorney in the case with Morton staying behind to serve in an advisory capacity.
The defendant then stepped up to continue questions to April, who arrested McNeill after finding a small bag filled with several grams of methamphetamine in his mouth.
April testified a Wynnewood police officer told him hours before the arrest to be on the lookout for a gold pickup truck in the vicinity that might have illegal narcotics inside.
In the early morning hours of March 21, 2019 the deputy saw the truck, claiming to pull it over for a traffic stop because of a faded license tag. The stop came at an Interstate 35 rest area a few miles south of Wynnewood.
McNeill was taken to the deputy's patrol car, while a male passenger in the truck was walked to the vehicle of a state trooper, Doug George, who came to assist at the scene.
“Mr. McNeill was digging around in his pockets,” April said, adding he was at the time getting information so he could issue some traffic citations.
That came after light frisk of McNeill was done initially. A more thorough one followed after a K-9 dog alerted to the presence of an illegal substance in the vehicle.
“During a pat down I felt a large lump in his coat pocket. He began to bring his hands to the front of his pocket in an attempt to conceal it. We tried to regain control of his hands,” the deputy said, also referring to the trooper.
At the time of the incident it was wet outside as they stood near a steep include along the highway. April said the struggling McNeill then took all three of them down the incline and into the mud.
“He kept trying to get away. He was face down toward the mud and still trying to get both hands into the pocket,” April said.
After getting McNeill under control and handcuffed, April says he noticed the newly arrested man appeared to have difficulty breathing.
“Trooper George shined a light into his mouth and we both saw a blue piece of plastic in his mouth. We would squeeze his nose and cheeks to expel it trying to get him to spit it out. He would not give it up. He began to chomp on it like he was trying to eat it.”
The bag was finally spit out by McNeill as April said it contained around 28 grams of meth.