Friday, December 5, 2014

Spectacular incompetence

I have used the phrase "spectacular incompetence" before, but this case may just be the worst.  At the time of the year when many blogs are preparing their "top ten" lists for the end of the year, I am wondering if this is the number one case in the "funny if it wasn't so sad and serious" misconduct category.

I am referring to the recently reported case in which a lawyer was disbarred for his incompetent representation of a client in a death penalty case.  The attorney had no prior experience in death penalty cases. He devoted little effort to preparing the case and had not tried a murder in twenty years. He didn’t investigate alibi witnesses and didn’t track his client’s cellphone to find his location at the time of the murders.  He was unfamiliar with ABA guidelines for trying capital murder cases. At trial, he informed the jury his client had previously been convicted of voluntary manslaughter, even though prosecutors agreed to a stipulation that the client had a prior felony conviction without further details.  Most bizarre is the fact that the attorney showed up to oral argument before the court dressed as Thomas Jefferson.

The court had little difficulty finding the attorney had provided ineffective assistance of counsel and eventually reversed the conviction.

The case is discussed in a public defender (which has photos of the attorney in his distinctive attire"), the Legal Profession blog and the ABA Journal.

Here is a video of the oral argument in question.  The attorney's argument starts at the 22:30 mark, where the attorney tries to explain the significance of the outfit.  Judge for yourself.