Now THIS Is An Incompetent Lawyer

Now that's who you want defending you in your capital murder trial..Thomas Jeffer..wait, WHAT???

Now that’s who you want defending you in your capital murder trial..Thomas Jeffer..wait, WHAT???

Dennis Hawver, an Ozawkie, Kansas attorney, was disbarred last week by the Kansas Supreme Court. The court ruled that Hawver showed “inexplicable incompetence” as a defense attorney for Phillip Cheatham, charged with first degree murder and tried in a 2005.  Cheatham’s conviction was overturned and  a new trial was ordered  in 2013, on the grounds that Hawver did not provide an adequate defense and thus Cheatham did not receive a fair trial. Yes, I think that was a fair assessment, given that..

  • In voir dire, Hawver told prospective jurors that his client was “a cocaine dealer” who had “killed another cocaine dealer with a gun.”
  • During the trial, he informed the jury that his client had previously been convicted of voluntary manslaughter, even though prosecutors had agreed to less prejudicial  stipulation that the Cheatham had a “prior felony conviction” without further details.
  • Hawlor failed to present evidence that might have shown that his client that was not in the city where the murder occurred at the time it occurred. He failed to investigate alibi witnesses.
  • He didn’t track his client’s cellphone to find his location at the time of the murders.
  • During the sentencing phase of the trial, after his client had been found guilty, Hawlor said “the killer” should be executed.

 

  • Hawver  made the creative argument at trial that his client would never have left a witness alive if he had been the one who shot the two female victims.

He really impressed the Supreme Court in his disciplinary hearing, though. He appeared dressed as Thomas Jefferson–his hero, he said—and  testified that his client agreed to pay him the $50,000 fee only if jurors returned a not guilty verdict—an arrangement forbidden by the ethics rules.  At one point,Hawlor shouted at the three judge panel, “I am incompetent!” as he pounded the lectern.

Taking him as his word, they  voted unanimously to disbar him, stating in their opinion that the totality of evidence leads to a “virtually inescapable conclusion” that Hawver failed to meet his professional ethics obligations while representing Cheatham, specifically citing his “inexplicable incompetence.”

That seems fair.

________________________________

Pointer and Facts: ABA Journal

Facts: Witchita Eagle

19 thoughts on “Now THIS Is An Incompetent Lawyer

  1. It sounds like he’d just simply had it with lawyering, but didn’t have the courage to pull the plug himself. It reminds me of one semester in school. I was very sick at the time, and it was getting worse every day. My situation got more and more dire as I weakened and work piled up. It was hellish. I couldn’t quit,though. I have never quit anything but bad habits. I’m simply not wired that way. I would have gone on until I dropped. It took what was essentially an order from my wife to take the incomplete they offered 2/3rds into the semester. It hurt, but I was also relieved.

  2. The court ruled that Hawver showed “inexplicable incompetence” as a defense attorney for Phillip Cheatham, charged with first degree murder and tried in a 2005. Cheatham’s conviction was overturned and a new trial was ordered in 2013,

    I’d call that a win if the case was hopeless.

  3. Well since he likes playing Jefferson and a lawyer when someone’s life is at stake, maybe he should pursue a career as actor. I hate to think he made his career decisions based on LA Law or Franklin and Bash, but it seems inescapable.

    Mr Cheatham’s last name could not have helped. (could not help that comment)

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