Trials & Litigation

Mistrial declared after coughing, ill lawyer tries questioning witness via courthouse speakerphone

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A Manhattan judge declared a mistrial Monday after an ill lawyer tried to question a witness from a speakerphone in a courthouse conference room and then acknowledged that he couldn’t continue.

The lawyer, Donald Vogelman, represents Dr. Eric Braverman, who is accused of sexually abusing a patient during a massage, report the New York Daily News and the New York Post.

According to the New York Post, Vogelman called the trial judge from a 16th floor courthouse conference room and told her that he had a fever and felt sick. He told the judge that he had kicked everyone out of the conference room and no one was near him.

The judge asked whether Vogelman could question a witness from the conference room speakerphone, and he agreed to do it, according to the New York Post. But he had trouble hearing and struggled to speak loud enough to hear, according to the New York Daily News.

As Vogelman’s symptoms appeared to worsen, Braverman argued that he should represent himself. But Vogelman and the judge, Justice Ruth Pickholz, advised against it.

Pickholz excused jurors, and Vogelman “erupted into a coughing fit,” according to the New York Post. “I just can’t do it,” he reportedly told the judge.

Pickholz declared a mistrial and adjourned the case until June 22.

The conference room where Vogelman conducted his questioning is being closed for a deep cleaning. New York has paused new jury trials in state courts, but pending trials were allowed to proceed.

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