BLOOMINGTON — A Bloomington man accused of fatally stabbing his wife will not be assigned a new public defender to handle his case, a judge ruled Friday.
Monroe Elbert, 50, is charged with murder in the Feb. 5 death of Nicole Elbert. The 30-year-old victim was found in an upstairs bedroom of an apartment the two shared at 610 N. McLean St. When officers arrived, they found Monroe carrying a large butcher knife and wearing blood-stained clothes.
Elbert’s public defender Brian McEldowney recently told a judge that communication had broken down between the two. Elbert confirmed he wanted another lawyer from the public defender’s office assigned to the murder case.
McEldowney said Public Defender Carla Barnes denied Elbert's request to have another lawyer from her office named to the case.
On Friday, Elbert outlined several reasons he believes McEldowney has not provided effective legal assistance, including a disagreement between the two on whether a second psychiatric evaluation of Elbert should be conducted.
Elbert was initially found unfit to stand trial and received treatment to restore him to mental competency. A second evaluation was conducted on the issue of his sanity at the time of the incident.
The lawyer's decision to not seek a second opinion on the sanity issue is a matter of trial strategy and not incompetence, said Judge Scott Drazewski.
The judge urged Elbert to cooperate with his court-appointed attorney.
McEldowney is "a seasoned, experienced lawyer," said the judge.
McEldowney recounted several unsuccessful attempts to consult with Elbert through a video conferencing system. The meetings are not held in person because of "some concerns having to do with security" and statements made by the defendant, said McEldowney, who did not elaborate on those concerns.
The judge warned Elbert that his continued failure to cooperate with the public defender could lead to loss of his right to appointed counsel.
"It is a two-way street between the client and attorney ... he can't help you unless you let him help you," Drazewski told the defendant.
McEldowney said he will schedule a meeting with Elbert next week to discuss developments with the case, including discussions underway between the two sides to resolve the case.
Elbert also faces charges of aggravated battery of a child related to two incidents in July and October 2017 in which his stepson, who was 8 at the time, suffered a broken leg and a serious head injury.
A Jan. 2 hearing is set to review the status of the case.