Criminal Justice

Former White House lawyer succeeds in bid to be tried in absentia for alleged attempted murder


A Connecticut judge has granted a request by former White House lawyer John Michael Farren to be tried in absentia for the alleged attempted murder of his wife.

Judge Richard Comerford of Stamford granted Farren’s request last Wednesday, the Stamford Advocate reports. Stamford State’s Attorney David Cohen told the newspaper he has seen suspects tried in absentia because they skipped bail, but he has never seen a defendant ask to skip his own trial.

Farren told the judge last Wednesday that attending his own trial would cause psychological problems, the story says. Farren used the same explanation a few weeks ago when he said he no longer wanted to represent himself and requested a lawyer.

Comerford reappointed Farren’s original two lawyers in the case, Eugene Riccio and Timothy Moynahan.

During the hearing last Wednesday, Comerford appeared exasperated when he asked Farren if he understood what he was doing, and Farren said he could not answer because he was appealing the judge’s decision to appoint Riccio and Moynahan, according to the newspaper story. After taking a break, the judge told Farren there is no such thing as hybrid representation and Farren is not entitled to file motions while represented by lawyers.

Farren’s trial is scheduled to begin today. He is accused of severely beating his then-wife, Mary Margaret Farren, with a flashlight two days after she served him with divorce papers in January 2010. He is charged with attempted murder, risk of injury to a child and two counts of first-degree assault, the Stamford Advocate says.

Mary Farren had worked as a lawyer at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, but she was unable to work after the attack left her with a brain injury and emotional trauma, according to testimony at a civil trial. Jurors found John Michael Farren liable for $28.6 million in the beating. He had represented himself in that case but did not show up for trial.

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