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Legal Ethics

Defense Counsel in Murder Case Is Handcuffed and Jailed for Lunch Hour After Dispute with Judge

Posted May 12, 2011 1:36 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Corrected: A lawyer representing the defendant in an ongoing felony murder and child-abuse trial was taken from a Michigan courtroom in handcuffs and jailed over the lunch hour after refusing to comply with what the Jackson Citizen Patriot describes as a judge's repeated "yelled" instructions to sit down.

Attorney George Lyons was arguing with Jackson County Circuit Judge John McBain at the time about a prosecutor's efforts to question a witness about a medication the defendant, Ronald Woodard II, was trying to get from a pharmacy, the newspaper says. The jury had been sent out after Lyons objected to the question by prosecutor Nimish Ganatra, and the judge was asking the prosecutor to explain why he wanted to question the witness about the medication.

Lyons subsequently complained that the judge was out of line, the newspaper reports in another article.

"I am a darn good lawyer and a darn good advocate, and to lock me up and walk me out of the courtroom with my client like a common criminal because I won't sit down and shut up? I don't talk to my children that way," said Lyons.

However, the judge said in response that he considered his treatment of the attorney "entirely appropriate" for what he described as direct contempt of court by a lawyer "going over the top," a third Citizen Patriot article recounts.

"I gave him one hour to cool off," said McBain. The lawyer apparently was offered a baloney sandwich while at the jail, but refused it. However, the judge said he gave Lyons time to get some food for lunch after he was released.

An earlier Citizen Patriot article provides additional details about the case. Monday was the start of Woodard's trial over the death of 2-year-old Cameron Russell, which Lyons told the jury was "an accident, a horrible, heart-wrenching accident.”

Corrected May 13 to correctly state that the case took place in Michigan.

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