We established long ago that
punching out a jury member during your trial
is a bad idea, and now, thanks to William Lehman, we can tell you that
laying a whoopin’ on your public defender in open court with everybody watching
isn’t a good idea either. In fact, it’s such a bad idea that doing so could see you wind up with no right to a lawyer, forced to represent yourself until you’re found guilty.
Lehman, 58, of Chisholm, Minn., who was on trial for assault, had asked the judge for a new attorney. The judge said no.
After everyone returned from a break, Lehman attacked public defender Mark Groettum from behind, locking his arm around his neck and punching him repeatedly in the face.
A chair was knocked over, and both men ended up on the floor.
“Blood was all over Groettum, the counsel table and the floor of the courtroom,” according to a court document.
And it all happened in front of the jury, the judge and all the others in the Hibbing courtroom.
Groettum told 6th Judicial District Judge James Florey that ethically he could no longer be Lehman’s attorney. Lehman asked for another lawyer, but the judge turned him down. Lehman was forced to represent himself for the rest of the trial.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Tuesday agreed with Florey’s decision, writing in a published opinion that a defendant gives up his right to a court-appointed lawyer when he beats up the one he has.
Yes, I did notice what he was on trial for. It makes the story that much better.