I sat horrified in a North Carolina Superior Court courtroom last week as I watched a privately-retained (aka “paid”) lawyer claim with a straight face to the court that he could represent both co-defendants in a first degree murder case where the State had not yet declared the case non-capital.
The hearing – which went on for more than 90 minutes – to determine whether this lawyer could in fact, as he claimed, provide ethical representation to both defendants was excruciating.
The very conscientious judge tried talk through the issue, but the lawyer – apparently Charlotte-based – insisted that there was no conflict or that if there was a conflict, it was waiveable. It was one of the most absurd displays I’ve seen in 15 years of practicing law.
Lawyers sitting in the jury box muttered to themselves as this Charlotte-based lawyer kept up the charade, and even had his clients stand before the judge and say they wanted to keep him and explain in vague terms why they wanted to keep him.
At one point, a local lawyer, who is well-respected, stood up and intervened, reading part a comment to North Carolina Rule of Professional Ethics 1.7 to the courtroom.
And yet the paid lawyer went on. Whether it was the money or his mistaken belief that he could do both cousins right in this murder case, who knows. Ultimately the judge dismissed him from both cases.