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