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Archive for Saturday, May 7, 2005

Mistrial declared after lawyer’s positive drug test

May 7, 2005

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— A judge troubled by a defense lawyer's behavior in a murder case declared a mistrial after a urine test indicated the lawyer had used marijuana and cocaine.

Sedgwick County District Judge Ben Burgess took the action Thursday, a day after he sent jurors home for the day and held a hearing on the performance of the lawyer, Michael Lehr.

Lehr was representing Joseph Sutton, charged with second-degree murder in the shooting last Dec. 5 of Tyrone "Anthony" Lewis.

The judge was concerned after getting three reports suggesting that the lawyer could have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs on the first two days of the trial.

During the trial, Lehr frequently asked questions that drew objections from the prosecution, with Burgess ruling many of them improper. At one point, Lehr told prosecutor Kevin O'Connor, "Well, since all you've done is try to hide everything ..."

When Burgess told Lehr he was ordering a drug test, the attorney objected, saying he would refuse until he consulted another lawyer.

Lee McMaster was then brought in to represent Lehr at the hearing. Ultimately, he agreed that Burgess had the power to order the drug test and that Lehr could be found in contempt if he refused.

A probation officer conducted the drug test and told the judge he got a positive result.

Declaring the mistrial, Burgess appointed another lawyer to represent Sutton. Members of Sutton's family were angered about the mistrial, saying they thought Lehr had been doing a good job.

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