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Archive for Friday, February 11, 2011

Kansas Supreme Court orders new trial for man convicted of robbing a Lawrence convenience store

February 11, 2011

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The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday ordered a new trial and new attorney for a man convicted of robbing a Lawrence convenience store in 2006.

Charles Smith was charged with entering the Presto Convenience store, pointing something under his shirt at the clerk and making off with the contents of the register.

The robber’s image was captured on the store’s surveillance video. The clerk picked Smith out of a lineup and four people testified that that was Smith on the videotape, according to court records.

Prior to the trial, Smith asked Douglas County District Court Judge Jack Murphy to appoint another attorney for his defense.

Smith said his attorney, James Rumsey, refused to put on a defense that suggested Smith couldn’t have committed the robbery because he was physically infirm and that he had no motivation because he had a job.

But Rumsey told Judge Murphy he saw the videotape and his client’s face was on it. “I just can’t participate in putting on evidence that I know would be fraudulent,” said Rumsey, who had filed a motion to withdraw as counsel.

Judge Murphy told Smith he wasn’t going to appoint a new attorney because all lawyers are prohibited from presenting evidence that they feel is false.

But the Supreme Court said Rumsey had crossed the line into the jury’s domain when determining his client was guilty based on the videotape.

“Here, the jury, as fact finder and final arbiter of guilt, had the sole responsibility to view the videotape, to look at the defendant, to make a finding as to whether the person shown in the videotape was the defendant, and, ultimately, to determine whether the defendant was guilty of robbery,” Justice Lee Johnson wrote.

The trial judge should have recognized this problem and appointed a new attorney, the court said. The court ordered a new trial with a newly appointed counsel.

Comments

Steve Jacob 3 years, 10 months ago

I am guessing the state would have presented the videotape at trial, right? Anyway, at this point, let Mr. Smith plead guilty, time served with parole, and be done with it, and hope he knows he got lucky and keeps is nose clean.

sr80 3 years, 10 months ago

i couldn't agree more,finally someone with logic,very good comment !!!! srj

somebodynew 3 years, 10 months ago

You obviously do not know Mr. Smith if you think that is going to happen.

sr80 3 years, 10 months ago

words of wisdom ring from the halls of Smittydom!!!

somebodynew 3 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, they are pretty much like the Joneses.

Jimo 3 years, 10 months ago

Perhaps we'd need to see the videotape but it sounds to me like the SC just approved attorneys presenting fraudulent claims so long as the defendant doesn't admit that it is fraudulent to the attorney.

The alternate is the better policy - attorneys should use simple judgment at recognizing clearly false testimony and refuse to cooperate in an attempt to present such false information to the court. The SC's 'learned helplessness' approach doesn't further justice. It also indicates a certain contempt for the value of the jurors' time.

ebyrdstarr 3 years, 10 months ago

Have you ever seen one of those convenience store videotapes? I would have a hard time identifying my sister on one, let alone someone I had only met a few times. The evidence that the defendant wanted to introduce at trial, that he had an injury and a job, was not fraudulent. The attorney erroneously thought he couldn't put it on because since he personally believed the defendant was guilty, he couldn't put on evidence that would raise an inference that the defendant was not guilty. So it was the defense attorney who showed contempt for the judicial process, including the jurors, since he thought it was his job to judge the defendant's guilt, not the jurors'.

The Supreme Court was absolutely right in its decision, as was the Court of Appeals before it. The article doesn't make it clear, but the Court of Appeals ruled first and also concluded that the defense attorney was in the wrong and the trial judge should have replaced him.

neolib 3 years, 10 months ago

Poor deductive reasoning. Nowhere in the article does it say that Smith admitted to Rumsey that it was him on the tape nor that Rumsey divulged to Judge Murphy that Smith admitted it to Rumsey.

damnitimpissed 3 years, 10 months ago

It is a very thin line. You can't present false evidence or perjury and yet, vigorously defend your client.

ebyrdstarr 3 years, 10 months ago

The problem here is that the defense attorney wasn't refusing to present false evidence or perjury. He was refusing to put on true evidence that would raise the inference that the defendant could not have committed the crime because the defense attorney was personally convinced that the defendant was guilty. That's not a thin line at all. It's a no-brainer that an attorney who refuses to advocate for a client based on a personal belief in that client's guilt has no business representing that client at trial.

somebodynew 3 years, 10 months ago

I understand your point ebyrdstarr, but if the attorney sees the video and knows that it is his client, then isn't he subborning (whatever spelling is), permitting perjury if he puts witnesses on that he knows are lying ??? That is the way I read this. The attorney knows it is his client on video, but his client wants to bring people in to lie for him.

Now I know that is not uncommon in the judicial system, but here it is on tape. Sounds like a song ..."it wasn't me....."

ebyrdstarr 3 years, 10 months ago

That isn't what happened here. The evidence the defendant wanted put on was true. He wasn't asking the attorney to suborn perjury. But the defense attorney thought he couldn't put on even true evidence from which the jury could infer the defendant was not guilty because the defense attorney had independently decided the defendant was guilty. That's just absurd.

Oh, and have you ever seen those gas station surveillance videos? There's almost no way to conclusively identify someone. And in the decision, the court noted that the video was dark and grainy. The idea that a defense attorney could so conclusively decide that his client is guilty just from one of those videos, and thus refuse to put on true evidence that might suggest the defendant had no motive to commit the crime, is appalling.

damnitimpissed 3 years, 9 months ago

Damn it. I leave my account signed in for five minutes and my lovely partner throws me under the troll bus.

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