Legal Ethics

Questions about chat with co-defendants keep murder case alive for lawyers after client is acquitted

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One man has been acquitted in a Louisiana murder case and prosecutors in Orleans Parish have dropped charges against four co-defendants. However, the case continues to reverberate among lawyers for both sides, as they argue about whether legal ethics rules were violated, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

At issue is a May 11 jailhouse meeting by defense attorneys John Fuller and Gregory Carter with co-defendants of their client, Donovan Carter, after the co-defendants testified. Donovan Carter was later acquitted by a jury.

“To me, it’s abundantly clear he was engaged in unethical behavior,” attorney Brent Stockstill told the newspaper, referring to Fuller. Stockstill reported Fuller and Carter to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. “And what the result of that will be remains to be seen.”

Fuller told the newspaper there are no hard feelings. He said that he and Carter had already self-reported to the office, after a video of the lawyers’ meeting with the two co-defendants was played in open court. But he also said that they were trying to deal with a legitimate problem—testimony on the stand that conflicted with recorded jailhouse conversations concerning any promises of leniency in exchange for testimony, the Times-Picayune reports.

“There has been no suggestion that I threatened them or even attempted to do anything to try to influence a person’s testimony,” Fuller said.

Fuller called Stockstill a fine lawyer, and Stockstill said he was happy about the Donovan Carter acquittal, which probably helped persuade prosecutors to drop charges against co-defendants.

A robbery case against Donovan Carter, in which the same co-defendants are expected to testify, is scheduled to go to trial next month.

Related coverage: “Murder trial takes detour after defense lawyers meet at jail with witnesses against their client”

New Orleans Times-Picayune: “Charges dropped for 4 Baton Rouge men who testified against acquitted French Quarter murder defendant”

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