Court Security

Judge OKs injury suit by lawyer decked in court by death-row client


A Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer who says he is still trying to recuperate from being struck in the face by a handcuffed death-row client and knocked to the courtroom floor last May has gotten a green light to proceed with his personal injury suit against Blair County, its prison board and multiple officials.

Although a visiting judge from Centre County dismissed two defendants in the case, including the district attorney, Judge David Grine ruled that the rest of the case could proceed, according to the Altoona Mirror and the Tribune-Democrat.

Plaintiff Timothy Burns says he suffered a concussion, headaches, lack of recall, post traumatic stress, heart problems and depression due to the May 13 attack by his then-client Andre Staton during a post-conviction court hearing. Staton, then 50, was in handcuffs attached to a waist belt. However, he managed to swing his arms in what the Mirror in an earlier article described as a “baseball bat fashion,” striking Burns in the forehead and eyes. The lawyer collapsed to the courtroom floor, breaking a chair as he went down.

Burns, who was paid as an independent contractor by the county to represent Staton, alleges that the defendants knew his client was dangerous and didn’t take adequate measures to keep him under control.

The county, which has not yet answered the complaint, has asserted sovereign immunity.

A separate criminal case against Staton over the courtroom attack on Burns is ongoing.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Appellate lawyer decked in court by handcuffed death-row client sues county for damages”

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