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Legal Ethics

Judge Rules ‘Attorney on a Gurney’ Is Competent for Trial

Posted Dec 14, 2010 10:53 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that a lawyer rolled into a competency hearing on a gurney last month is competent to stand trial.

Judge Steve Leskinen ruled last week after hearing testimony that the lawyer, Mark Morrison of Hopwood, Pa., could be faking his mental problems, according to the Associated Press and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Morrison is accused of stealing nearly $100,000 in mortgage settlement payments from two elderly couples.

At a competency hearing last month, Morrison laid on a gurney in the back of the courtroom, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported at the time. Occasionally, he would raise his right arm into the air and wiggle his fingers. A surgical mask covered his mouth and his eyes remained closed.

Experts at the hearing said Morrison should be monitored in a care facility before his competency is determined, but said it is possible he is faking mental illness. Dr. Bruce Wright, a psychiatrist for the prosecution, cited a hospital discharge report. It indicated that sometimes Morrison appears completely disoriented, but he is able to carry on a “clear and logical” telephone conversation when no one is in the room.

The CBS News Crimesider blog noted the judge’s ruling. “ ‘Attorney on a gurney’ may sound like the title of a new reality show, but actually, it describes how a Pennsylvania lawyer chose to make his grand entrance at a competency hearing last month,” Crimesider says.

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