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Prosecutors Tell Defense Attorney: No Crying in the Courtroom

By Christine Mattice     Jun 28, 2008 in Crime
If prosecutors in Hamilton, Ohio have their way, there will be no more Perry Mason-type theatrics in the courtroom, at least, none that involve tears.
Assistant Prosecutor, Jason Phillabaum, filed a motion last week that seeks to prohibit defense attorneys from showing emotion during the upcoming trial and sentencing of a death penalty case.
Citing several past cases where Ohio judges have reprimanded defense attorneys for using tears in their closing arguments, Phillabaum’s motion contends that, as reports:
“Specifically, defense attorneys have strategically been known to cry on cue and beg for their clients’ lives,” [thus] “appealing to the emotions of the jury instead of to reason.”
But Phillabaum is not just talking about ANY defense attorney and ANY capital case.
Last month, Phillabaum and County Prosecutor Robin Piper won a guilty verdict against Harvey Johnson for the kidnapping and murder of Kiva Gasaway. During the penalty phase of this trial, however, defense attorney Greg Howard cried in front of the jury while begging them not to sentence his client to death. The jury relented and gave Johnson a life sentence in prison, instead.
This coming August, prosecutors are bringing another capital murder case to trial and their nemesis will be, once again, Howard.
Howard is not only co-counsel for James O’Hara, who stands accused of the stabbing death of Stanley Lawson, but he has also helped spare the lives of 15 of his last 19 clients during the penalty phase of their trials.
This, according to Howard, is the real reason behind the motion by prosecutors. “It’s because,” as he told Time, they haven’t won a death verdict for so long in this county.” He further condemned prosecutors for “alleging that I cry on cue and that I’ve been trained to do this. Nothing could be further from the truth…in a death penalty case, as strongly as I feel for my clients and as much time and energy as I’ve put in, it happens.”
He looks forward to arguing his case against this “ridiculous” motion on July 18.
Meanwhile, prosecutors cite the 1999 Ohio Supreme Court ruling that “it is improper to inflame a jury’s emotions by crying,” to buttress their case against Howard.
No matter how the courts rule in this matter, the question remains: IS it wrong for a defense attorney to use any and every (arguably legal or moral) means to spare his clients life?
More about Crying courtroom, Prosecutors, Greg howard
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