Legal Ethics

Lawyers Must Keep Representing Murder Defendant Who Won't Communicate With Them, Judge Rules


It’s been at least a year since Jose Garcia-Morales communicated with his public defenders, if he ever did.

But Shelley Ajax and Moe Spencer must continue to represent the 28-year-old murder defendant, a Washington state court judge has ruled, denying their motion to withdraw on the basis that the attorney-client relationship has been “eviscerated,” according to KNDO/KNDU and the Tri-City Herald.

Franklin County Judge Carrie Runge said there was no evidence that Garcia-Morales, who doesn’t react to his lawyers even by nodding or gesturing, according to Ajax, has had a falling-out with his counsel, the newspaper reports. And if the motion was granted, it would be difficult to find any other counsel to represent him, the judge added.

The judge also said Garcia-Morales has been found to be competent and is making a conscious choice not to participate in his criminal case. He reportedly comes to court in a wheelchair with his head down.

Garcia-Morales is charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder after allegedly helping an older brother fatally shoot a Pasco man in December 2008 and seriously injure the man’s wife, notes an earlier Tri-City Herald article.

Additional coverage:

Tri-City Herald: “Lawyers for Pasco shooting suspect want off case”

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