Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

Judge Who Booted Defense Attorneys Asked to Recuse

Posted by Maggie on March 19, 2008

One of the cases often referenced when talking about the difficulties with capital cases in Georgia these days is that of Jamie Weis, charged with murder in Pike County.  A quick recap: defense attorneys in the case asked for a delay in the case while they weren’t being paid.  The Judge decided he wanted to move the case forward, kicked off defense counsel, and replaced them with local PD’s.  This isn’t something he seems to have the right to do under Georgia jurisprudence.  Nor is the local PD’s office equipped to handle death penalty cases since the establishment of the Capital Defender’s Office.  Oh, and he didn’t consult anyone about this decision, not past or current counsel.

It wasn’t likely anyone was just going to let this lie.  Now a motion has been filed for Judge Caldwell to recuse himself.  Prominent defense attorneys Stephen Bright, Ed Garland, and Donald Samuel have filed the motion.  They are not defense counsel, but are asking to be involved specifically to address this issue.  Among the noteworthy dirt they’ve dug up is what looks like ex parte proceedings.  Judge Caldwell claimed to have spontaneously made the decision to remove the attorneys from the case.  However, it seems that Caldwell was talking to Mack Crawford, head of the Georgia Public Defenders, for months before the change was made without involving any defense counsel or the defendant.  As you may imagine, Caldwell isn’t thrilled about all this.  Allegedly, he’s instructed his secretary not to tell Bright and company about scheduled hearings.  This is just the latest move.  Previous ones have thus far been unsuccessful.  We’ll see if this does anything. 

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