Lighter Side: Lawyer in Thomas Jefferson outfit disbarred for “inexplicable incompetence”

by NZ Lawyer05 Dec 2014
A Kansas lawyer who described his client as a “professional drug dealer”, a “shooter of people” and disclosed he had previously been convicted of manslaughter when it wasn’t required, has been disbarred for “inexplicable incompetence”.

Dennis Hawver, who represented Phillip Cheatham in a 2005 murder trial of two women, bizarrely tried to use reverse psychology to work in his client’s favour.

However, the plan backfired spectacularly, and highlights of the trial included the lawyer telling jurors in his closing argument that “they should execute the killer”, according to the website, Slate.

Perhaps it came as no surprise that Cheatham was subsequently convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

However, thanks to Hawver’s less than adequate performance, the court overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial last year on the basis that the lawyer had failed to represent his client properly.

Hawver was promptly dragged in front of a disciplinary hearing, which he decided to attend dressed as Thomas Jefferson.

Wearing a white powdered wig, a dark 18th century suit and long white stockings, the lawyer defended his disaster of a trial, saying his strategy for Cheatham - who he said was "an experienced and highly street-smart and intelligent criminal" and a cocaine dealer previously convicted of the manslaughter of another dealer - was to tell jurors that if the man had indeed killed the two women in 2003 as accused, he would never have left a third shooting victim alive who was then able to identify him to police.

Instead it was Hawver’s assertion that the survivor was actually shot eight times by another gunman in order to force her into falsely identifying Cheatham as the killer.

And in regards to his Jefferson get-up, the lawyer explained that he’d dressed up as his “hero” to compel the Kansas Supreme Court to protect his constitutional rights.

The Court wasn’t impressed, and unanimously ruled to disbar Hawver.

But that was no skin off the lawyer’s back: He claimed that he intended to leave the law anyway and planned to devote his time to growing vegetables in an aquaponics garden.