Court Unconvinced by Lawyer Dressed as Thomas Jefferson

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Today in Least Surprising Updates:  The Kansas Supreme Court unanimously held on November 14 that Dennis Hawver would be disbarred for violating <stops to count> seven ethical or court rules when representing a defendant who was ultimately sentenced to death. The opinion actually doesn't mention Hawver's choice to appear before it dressed as his favorite Founder, Thomas Jefferson, but otherwise pretty much everything we discussed back in September is covered. See "'I Am Incompetent!' Lawyer Argues Unnecessarily," Lowering the Bar (Sept. 18, 2014) (with link to video of the argument).

The 48-page opinion could have been much shorter, because all the court really needed to do was quote Hawver's own statements in the affidavit he provided to the lower court in support of a new trial, and then add "we agree, and order him disbarred." It is quite amazing. 

Consider just this one paragraph:

Despite my knowledge that the jury had found my client guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of double murder, I told the jury I thought the killer should be executed for the crimes. This argument was clearly prejudicial to my client, who the jury believed, as evidenced by their verdict, was the killer.

Read that one over a few times, and then consider that this was probably not the worst argument he made during the case.

Now, it is possible to argue that you were too inexperienced (for example) to handle a death case effectively without also conceding that you should never be allowed in or near a courtroom again, ever. If Hawver is aware of that, he did not try to do it. And if he was deliberately falling on his sword in a desperate effort to save his client, it's hard to see why he would have gone to such lengths for this guy given that, as Hawver told jurors and potential jurors, his client had killed at least once before, was "a professional drug dealer" and a "shooter of people." In fact, as he also told the jury, his client is such a bad person that he could not possibly be guilty of this crime because there were two eyewitnesses, and he is simply not the kind of person to leave eyewitnesses alive.

Also, you are not supposed to tell the jury things like that. Especially when, as with the prior conviction for manslaughter, the state has agreed that the evidence should be excluded because it is unduly prejudicial.

There's more, but the court's description of Hawver's work in this case as "inexplicable incompetence" pretty much sums it up. I will say that his Jefferson costume is really pretty good, but unfortunately that sort of thing doesn't count as a mitigating factor.