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”
At least he was honest about his incompetency. Washington is filled to the gills with those who won’t ‘fess up.
There are worse rationalizations.
But I don’t think there are.
We all have our “favorites”.
I think 13 is worse, given the level of atrocities enabled by the mantle of the greater good. 29 bothers me as well, and has some similar features, but I’m not sure how to rank it.
The reason I don’t think 13 is worse is that it can have some validity. That makes it seductive and pernicious, I agree. Comparative virtue is just idiotic.
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.
Wouldn’t you say that a capital murder defense is one hell of a strange time to decide “Oh, what the hell?”
This is chutzpah
Yes, well, incompetent lawyers will file stupid and hopeless lawsuits.
I’d call that a win if the case was hopeless.
Yes, but it sounds like Cheatham had a case. The LAWYER was hopeless.
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)
He might be angling for his own TV series on NBC.
Obviously his child must have made the birthday wish from “Liar Liar.” That would explain everything.
Oh my gosh By the Farmstead, I didn’t even notice his last name. That makes this even more like a fictional story than Liar Liar was.
Now all we need is for Cheatham to be found not guilty, go to law school, then partner up with Dewey and Howe …