Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Public defender argues for new trial

Defendant went through 6 lawyers, used profanity

By Janice Morse jmorse@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIDDLETOWN - A Butler County defendant used profanity, addressed jurors with improper comments, had gone through six lawyers, stripped naked and refused to put his clothes back on to stand trial, according to court records.

        So Judge Patricia Oney ordered the trial of William A. Parrish to go forward without him in September 2000, and a jury convicted him in absentia on a dozen charges stemming from a 1999 stolen-car chase in Hamilton. He was sentenced to 7 years in prison.

        But the Ohio Public Defender's Office is arguing that Mr. Parrish, 34, should get a new trial. The Butler County Prosecutor's Office disagrees.

        In oral arguments Monday before the Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals, Assistant State Public Defender James Foley conceded “no one (among his six lawyers) could get along with Mr. Parrish” and his misbehavior occurred because “he wanted to avoid the harsh penalties of the criminal justice system.”

        Regardless, Mr. Foley argued that Mr. Parrish was entitled to a new trial because the trial transcript contained 750 omissions, that his right to an attorney was violated and that he should not have been tried in absentia.

        Mr. Foley said Judge Oney should not have allowed Mr. Parrish to represent himself for some of the proceedings because he had stated that he didn't want to represent himself. But he also said he wanted to fire his sixth lawyer.

        “How many (more lawyers) do you have to go through before enough is enough?” asked Presiding Judge James E. Walsh.

        Judge Anthony Valen asked what type of attorney Mr. Parrish was entitled to: “One that has to listen to foul language? ... From a naked defendant?”

        Mr. Foley responded that when a defendant's right to a lawyer clashes with the justice system's right to try a defendant, “the right to counsel has to be paramount.”

        Butler County First Assistant Prosecutor Dan Eichel cited a 1996 Ohio case in which a court found that a defendant may not “defeat the administration of justice” by his own misbehavior, and courts may take action to counteract such attempts.

        As for the transcript problems, Mr. Eichel said many of the omissions had been corrected, leaving a substantially accurate record sufficient for Mr. Parrish's appeal to receive due consideration. The appellate court's decision is expected in several weeks.


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