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Legal Ethics

Criminal Lawyer in Contempt for Defending Client

Posted Aug 24, 2007 10:25 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A Washington state lawyer has been found in contempt of court for his defense of an alleged serial rapist who has already served his 25-year sentence for a single rape conviction.

Kevin Coe, 60, is still being held, however, because he is considered likely to re-offend, and Tim Tragesser advised him not to answer some questions asked by a forensic psychiatrist during a July 19 clinical interview. He contends that they violated Coe's Fifth Amendment rights, according to the Associated Press.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Kathleen O'Connor found Tim Tragesser in contempt for interfering with the interview. Although she didn't impose sanctions on Tragesser and will allow him to attend a follow-up interview, he can be removed if he interferes with the the psychiatrist's questions, AP reports. Tragesser says he has never been held in contempt before in 18 years of law practice.

The state is seeking to commit Coe indefinitely for treatment, as a sexually violent predator, at Washington's secure Special Commitment Center at McNeil Island not far from Seattle, where he is now being held. A trial is scheduled next year in Spokane, in the eastern portion of the state.

Coe was arrested in 1981, following an in investigation of scores of rapes in the South Hill neighborhood of Spokane in the late 1970s and early 1980s, AP reports. He was charged with six rapes and convicted, in two separate jury trials, of four and three of these rapes. All but one of the convictions were overturned on appeal, however, leaving Coe with a single conviction for first-degree rape.

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