Defendant Who Attacked PD Gave Up Right to a Lawyer, Court Says
The Minnesota Court of Appeals has affirmed a judge’s refusal to appoint a new lawyer for a defendant who attacked his public defender in court.
The appeals court said William Lehman forfeited his right to a court-appointed lawyer when he attacked public defender Mark Groettum in the courtroom, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Lehman attacked Groettum from behind and punched him repeatedly in the face. “Blood was all over Groettum, the counsel table, and the floor of the courtroom,” according to the court’s opinion (PDF).
Lehman, who had previously requested a new lawyer, was ordered shackled for the remainder of his trial and had to represent himself. He was convicted of assault for knifing two neighbors in a dispute over loud music.
“No court can carry on its business in an atmosphere of violence, fear and intimidation,” the May 13 opinion said. “We are aware that forfeiting a defendant’s right to court-appointed counsel is an extreme sanction. But the outrageous and manipulative conduct of appellant in this instance justified the district court’s decision.”