On November 14, 2014, Kansas criminal lawyer Dennis Hawver was disbarred for his “inexplicable incompetence” in representing a client, who was ultimately sentenced to death in a capital murder trial.
A hearing panel found 24 specific instances of deficiencies, from failing to investigate possible defenses, procedural errors, and much, much worse. Oh, and he appeared before the Kansas Supreme Court dressed as his hero, Thomas Jefferson (see his outfit at five minutes and 17 seconds; his argument begins at 22 minutes and 38 seconds).
Hawver described his client to the jury as “a professional drug dealer” and “shooter of people.” He told jurors and potential jurors that his client had killed at least once before. He told them this after the state agreed that evidence of his client’s prior manslaughter conviction should be excluded because it was unduly prejudicial.
Moreover, Hawver brilliantly argued that his ruthless client would never leave eyewitnesses alive, and, therefore, could not be guilty the crime.
The court also found that the criminal defense lawyer did not investigate alibi witnesses, and did not track his client’s cellphone, which could have been used to show his location at the time of the murders.
Hawver had never tried a capital murder case and had not tried any murder case in over two decades. The court said its findings were “more than sufficient to require disbarment.”
Hawver testified his client would pay him a $50,000 fee for his criminal defense, but only for a not guilty verdict. Looks like he won’t be getting paid.
Jean-Paul Guidry practices criminal defense in Shreveport, Louisiana.