Criminal Justice

Former White House lawyer wins trial delay after linking judge's statement to Pontius Pilate

A former White House lawyer accused of beating his wife with a flashlight has won a trial delay after suggesting the judge was emulating Pontius Pilate.

Jury selection was delayed this week as John Michael Farren argued for more time to present his defense in the attempted murder case, the New Canaan News reports. As a result of a hearing this week, Farren will get more time pending a June 5 appellate ruling on whether he may present a mental-defect defense.

Judge Richard Comerford had barred the defense on May 1 because Farren refused to sign a waiver to allow a state psychiatrist to examine him. Farren, who is representing himself, told Comerford this week he would give up his appeals if the judge reversed his decision and allowed a second chance to submit to the exam.

Comerford refused, saying, “What I have written, I have written.”

Farren pointed out in the second day of the hearing that Comerford’s statement is a biblical quote from Pontius Pilate. Farren told the judge that Pontius Pilate made the statement as he refused a call by rabbis to change a sign on the cross calling Jesus the king of the Jews. According to Farren, biblical scholars believe the refusal demonstrated the Romans’ arbitrary and capricious power to persecute Jews and to refuse direction from religious leaders.

Comerford saw where Farren was going with the parallel, according to the newspaper account. Leaning forward, the judge said that wasn’t his intention. Farren replied that he was only trying to provide context.

“I appreciate the education,” Comerford replied.

“Pontius Pilate is not someone we want to emulate, your honor and I would ask you to reconsider your decision of May 1 and preserve my right to an affirmative defense of altered mental status,” Farren said.

Prior coverage: “Former White House lawyer ordered to pay $28.6M in beating of wife”

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.