N.C. Drops Ethics Charges Against PD Who Told of Dead Client’s Confession
Posted Feb 5, 2008 10:37 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
The North Carolina State Bar has dismissed an ethics complaint against the appellate defender who revealed statements his client made long before he committed suicide in prison that could help exonerate another inmate.
Editorials in the Raleigh News & Observer and the Greensboro News-Record are praising the decision to drop ethics charges. The lawyer, Staples Hughes, was referred to disciplinary authorities for violating client confidences after he sought to testify after the death of his client, Jerry Cashwell, that Cashwell had confessed 20 years ago that he alone committed a double murder. The statement could help a second co-defendant who is still in prison for the murders, Lee Wayne Hunt.
“Hughes found himself in a difficult position between an attorney's duty to his client and a citizen's commitment to justice,” the News & Observer wrote. “He chose justice. In doing so, who could really say he harmed the former client, a murderer who killed himself in prison in 2002?”
The North Carolina Supreme Court recently denied Hunt’s request for an appeal. Hunt’s lawyers told WRAL.com that they would file an appeal in federal court and ask the state’s Innocence Inquiry Commission to consider the case.