Criminal Justice

‘Astonished’ Judge Declares Murder Mistrial Due to Defense Lawyer Who Never Tried a Case


A Washington, D.C., judge declared a mistrial in a murder case Friday, saying he was “astonished” at the performance of the defense lawyer who confessed to jurors he’d never tried a case before.

Judge William Jackson said lawyer Joseph Rakofsky did not have a good grasp of legal procedures, citing as an example the attorney’s rambling opening statement in which he told of his inexperience, the Washington Post reports. Rakofsky graduated from Touro law school in 2009 and obtained a law license in New Jersey less than a year ago, the story says.

Rakofsky had repeated disagreements with his local D.C. counsel, causing his client, Dontrell Deaner, to become “visibly frustrated,” the Post says. On Friday, Deaner told the judge he wanted a new lawyer.

The judge declared a mistrial after reviewing a court filing in which an investigator had claimed Rakofsky fired him for refusing to carry out the lawyer’s emailed suggestion to “trick” a witness, the story says. Rakofsky’s suggestion allegedly read: “Thank you for your help. Please trick the old lady to say that she did not see the shooting or provide information to the lawyers about the shooting.”

Afterward, Rakofsky refused to comment and rushed out of the courthouse, the story says.

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