Legal Ethics

Va. Attorney Charged with 'Embracery'

A Virginia civil rights attorney is now defending an unusual criminal case in modern-day America.

Accused of improperly attempting to influence an Albemarle County grand jury, Deborah Wyatt is charged with five misdemeanor counts of embracery, an English common-law crime that dates back to the Magna Carta and was incorporated into Virginia law when the commonwealth was established, reports the Daily Progress, a Charlottesville newspaper.

The case resulted from conversations Wyatt had with grand jurors who were considering indicting a client of hers who had been involved in an auto accident. Wyatt—who wanted to be called as a witness to explain that the client had had an epileptic seizure—apparently doesn’t contest the conversations, just the prosecution’s interpretation of them, according to the newspaper. She and her lawyer say she did nothing wrong.

“There’s no corrupt intent,” says John Zwerling, an Alexandria attorney representing Wyatt. “Just saying that, ‘so-and-so is available to be a witness’ is OK.”

A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, Wyatt has twice argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. She has previously clashed with local authorities because of her work on civil rights cases, the newspaper reports.

(Hat tip: Virginia Lawyers Weekly law blog.)

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