Defendant must seek new counsel due to attorney conflict after revelation that his lawyer represented state’s witness.
An Indianapolis man scheduled to stand trial for murder this week in the 2014 fatal shooting of a man outside an Illinois nightclub must find a new lawyer after his private attorney was found to have a conflict of interest.
Vermilion County Circuit Judge Craig DeArmond on Tuesday granted prosecutors’ motion to disqualify Alexander’s private attorney, Baku Patel, due to an
attorney conflict of interest after it was disclosed that Patel represents a witness who apparently identified Alexander to police.
Alexander faces two counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated battery/discharge of a firearm in connection with the March 16, 2014 death of Demaree D. Tetter, 25, of Danville.
Mr. Tetter, who played football at Danville High School in the mid-2000s, was fatally shot outside of Club Deuce, 623 N. Vermilion St. Two days later, Alexander was arrested on a murder warrant in his hometown of Indianapolis.
Alexander was initially represented by the Vermilion county public defender’s office. He hired Patel in January 2015.
But a few days before Alexander’s trial was to begin, the fact that Patel represented both the defendant and a state’s witness, Cedric Halthon, came to light in a pre-trial hearing.
Assistant State’s Attorney Sandy Lawlyes said that Patel entered his appearance as Halthon’s attorney in Halthon’s drug case on Aug. 3, 2015. By that time, Patel had already received discovery material in Alexander’s case listing Halthon as a witness who, during an interview with police, apparently identified Alexander in a photo lineup.
Patel argued he believed that Alexander would take a plea deal, so Halthon would never have to testify and therefore, he didn’t perceive a conflict. Once he realized the trial was going forward and Halthon could be called, he said he immediately informed Halthon he couldn’t represent him any longer and advised him to find another lawyer. He said Halthon told him he planned to hire another attorney but the paperwork was never completed.
However, Halthon testified that about a week after he hired Patel, the attorney told him he already represented Alexander and because he knew Halthon was a witness in that case, he probably couldn’t take his case.
Halthon further testified it was Lawyles who first told him he would have to obtain another attorney due to the conflict.
Patel continued to represent both clients through mid-February. To complicate matters, Lawyles said she learned through a disclosure filed by the defendant on Feb. 9 that two witnesses planned to testify that Halthon “either recanted or admitted lying to the police regarding the statement made previously.”
In his decision, DeArmond wrote that it’s clear that Patel took on Halthon’s case and negotiated a plea for Alexander, knowing Halthon was a state’s witness in Alexander’s case.
“And not merely an incidental witness, but a witness who identified the defendant (apparently as the shooter, considering the nature of the charges.)”
Of significant concern, DeArmond wrote, is that Halthon testified he hoped Patel would get him a plea deal and “the potential for a dispute about the nature, extent and content of conversations between them may become an issue when Halthon is cross-examined by (Patel). He will obviously need to be cross-examined regarding any negotiated agreements or hopes of leniency.”
Originally posted by on Noelle McGee on The News-Gazette.
Attorney Conflict Representation – Ball & Bonholtzer Trial Attorney – Los Angeles