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Archive for Friday, December 12, 2003

Former defender in capital cases gives up license

December 12, 2003

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— A former attorney for Kansas capital murder defendants has surrendered his law license in the face of a state panel's recommending his disbarment.

Benjamin C. Wood, formerly of Lawrence, moved to New York in 1999, and four former clients later complained he was not diligent in handling their business. In August, a three-member panel of the Board for the Discipline of Attorneys concluded that Wood should be disbarred, saying Wood also showed disdain for the legal system.

The Kansas Supreme Court issued a disbarment order Wednesday, nine days after Wood surrendered his license.

The complaining ex-clients included former Emporia minister Thomas Bird, serving a life sentence since his 1985 conviction for murdering his wife. The case inspired a television miniseries, "Murder Ordained."

Bird said Wood's handling of his case prevented it from being fully reviewed by the federal courts.

In a September 2003 letter defending his record to the Kansas Supreme Court, Wood disputed that he had mishandled matters for Bird or that Bird suffered any actual harm.

In the same letter, Wood said he was caring for the developmentally disabled in Suffern, N.Y., finding it more rewarding than "wearing the paper fetters of a law license."

In June 2000, Wood had written state and federal courts protesting capital punishment as a "ritual sacrifice system." Before he left for New York, Wood's clients included Gary Kleypas, sentenced to die for the 1996 slaying of a Pittsburg State University student.

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