Accused Cop Killer Wants Plea Change

A fight is brewing between the man accused of killing Montgomery police officer Keith Houts and his own defense attorneys.

Mario Woodward says he wants to change his plea.

The accused cop killer wrote to Judge Truman Hobbs, saying he objected to his defense team's strategy of pleading not guilty by reason of mental defect, the so called insanity plea, instead of just pleading not guilty.

Judge Hobbs called everyone to court Thursday morning.

However, in less than two minutes, the judge told Woodward he needed to talk to his lawyers before changing his plea to a simple not guilty.

Woodward's attorney, Richard Keith, says his client and his family simply don't understand the strategy.

"Mr. Woodward had the, the basic mistaken assumption that the plea of not guilty by reason of mental defect places him in a bad light. However, in capital murder cases and particularly death penalty cases, Mr. Van Heest [Woodward's other attorney] and I are quite confident we are entering the appropriate plea in Mr. Woodward's best interest.

However, Woodward's spirital advisor, Rev. Albert Sankey, thinks otherwise saying, "He's [Woodward] going to the electric chair and they just did that, because they gonna come back and say he's insane or sane...If he has a lawyer that's not confident in what they're doing what you think gonna happen when they go into a courtroom. They're not gonna fight for him."

Judge Hobbs would not allow Woodward to change his plea until after consulting with his court lawyers.

Woodward's family now says they want him to fire Richard Keith and Joe Van Heest and get new counsel.

Under Alabama law, if he fires his court appointed attorneys he must pay for his own attorney.

Trial is set for March 31, 2008.