Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Public defender wants local lawyer for Irwin retrial

POSTED: April 20, 2010

LISBON - An attorney from the Ohio Public Defender's Office in Columbus filed a motion Monday to withdraw as counsel for murder defendant Andrew Irwin, suggesting local counsel be appointed instead.
"Given the facts at issue in Mr. Irwin's case, he would be better served by local counsel who can interact with Mr. Irwin and his family, and investigate his case, without facing the barrier created by the time it takes to travel from Columbus, Ohio to Columbiana County, Ohio," Senior Assistant Public Defender Gregory Meyers wrote.
He also mentioned that per state statute, he would be required to submit a bill to the court for his representation of Irwin, which he stated would "likely infuse a fiscal inefficiency born of the amount of time it takes to travel from Columbus, Ohio to Columbiana County, Ohio."
By law, the county must provide an attorney for defendants who can't pay for their own. Columbiana County has a system in place with a non-profit group of local attorneys who handle the indigent criminal cases for a yearly lump sum paid by commissioners through a contract with the organization.
In this case, the county would have had to cover Meyer's costs based on an hourly rate, along with his travel costs.
Judge C. Ashley Pike of Common Pleas Court appointed the Ohio Public Defender's Office to handle the retrial for Irwin based on what was requested in a motion filed by Irwin's appellate counsel.
Irwin, 28, formerly of East Liverpool, was convicted of murder in the August 2006 stabbing death of 21-year-old Emily Foreman in her Liverpool Township home. He was sentenced to prison in 2007 for 15 years to life, but his conviction and sentence were overturned on appeal, with ineffective assistance of counsel listed as one of the reasons. His trial attorney, George Kafantaris, has since been disbarred for life due to his dealings with clients in Trumbull County.
In his motion to withdraw, Meyers wrote that "appellate counsel's motion seemed to inadvertently overemphasize the nature of the post-trial contact between Mr. Irwin and lawyers with the Ohio Public Defender's Office in Columbus. While it is correct that Mr. Irwin had some contact with a post-trial lawyer with the Ohio Public Defender's Office, that contact was minimal - it did not result in formal representation in any legal proceeding; not did it entail the formation of an attorney-client relationship that might otherwise warrant appointing counsel from a distant city to handle the retrial."
A telephone conference remains set for 2 p.m. April 26, with a motions hearing set for 1 p.m. April 29. A status hearing is set for 3 p.m. Sept. 3, with a trial date of Sept. 21.
Meyers had not filed anything regarding bond. Irwin remains in the Columbiana County Jail with no bond set. Meyers had filed several motions, including one asking the new trial be moved to another county and one asking the court to stop law enforcement, jail personnel, inmates and anyone else from talking to his client about the case.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at mgreier@salemnews.net

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