Thursday, October 27, 2011
The Indiana Supreme Court has imposed a six-month suspension of an attorney for misconduct in the course of representing a defendant charged with murder.
The stipulated facts:
In 2006, J.M. was indicted for a murder that occurred in 2000, and a public defender was appointed to represent him. Without invitation from J.M. or anyone else, Respondent visited J.M. in jail and agreed to represent him without charge.
During his opening statement, Respondent stated that search dogs were sent out shortly after the victim's disappearance and one dog "alerted" at the home of B.H., but the dog was called off. These statements were false and Respondent should have known that no evidence would be admitted at trial to support them. J.M. was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 65 years.
Respondent filed a notice that he would be providing pro bono representation for J.M. in his appeal. The court issued an order finding J.M. indigent for the purposes of paying the costs of a transcript for the appeal. Respondent, however, never requested funds for copying and binding the appellant's brief and appendix. Instead, he told J.M.'s mother that technically they could probably request the trial court to pay these costs, but the court would not pay because of extreme criticism of the judge and the prosecutor in the appellate brief.
When Respondent filed an appellant's brief for J.M., he sent J.M.'s mother a copy that was not file-stamped and expressed his hope that family or friends would pay the costs to the printer. He later informed J.M.'s mother that the brief would be refiled to correct grammatical errors, told her that the copying expenses needed to be paid, and asked her for payment of at least $1,500. J.M.'s mother was unaware that that original brief had already been filed and feared that failure to pay the costs of printing and binding would result in the brief not being filed. She therefore sold some personal items and sent Respondent a check for $1,500.
The court found that the attorney had exploited three vulnerable prople. (Mike Frisch)