North Carolina Murder Suspect Fires Second Court-Appointed Lawyer and Demands A Black Lawyer From Durham

Grant Hayes, 33, should have a great deal more on his mind as he faces a trial for the murder and dismembering of his ex-girlfriend in North Carolina. However, Hayes has fired his second court-appointed lawyer and demanded a “black attorney from Durham.” Hayes, 33, and his wife, Amanda Perry Hayes, 40, face first-degree murder charges.

What is striking is that he insists not only that he needs a black attorney but that one from Raleigh or Ashville won’t do.

Judge Donald Stephens granted the motion after the attorney for Hayes, 33, reported an ethical conflict with Hayes. Stephens said however that this would be the third and last strike for a lawyer.

Hayes and his wife are accused of murdering Laura Ackerson, 27, in North Carolina, dismembering her body and dumping her remains in a Richmond, Texas, swamp on July 24, 2011.

It is not clear if the Court has considered the race request but it would be entirely (in my view) inappropriate to yield to such racism. Of course, it could create a difficult situation if he is given a third non-Black lawyer and refuses to work with him. That would leave the court with the choice of having him defend himself (and create a circus environment) or have the lawyer represent him against his wishes.

Some judges have faced such demands on religious grounds with Muslim defendants demanding Muslim lawyers. Should they try to accommodate such requests to facilitate the trial in your view?

Source: NY Daily News

22 thoughts on “North Carolina Murder Suspect Fires Second Court-Appointed Lawyer and Demands A Black Lawyer From Durham

  1. Given the nature of the charges I think the guy has the right to get someone he is comfortable with & the court should give him some leeway. The problem would be determining a point at which it is reasonable to assume the guy is just trying to drag the process out & make it unmanageable.

    We know, no matter what we think of the fact, that race does matter to many people, religion and gender too. As long as the request for representation does not present a real burden to the court whats the problem with letting defendants make the demand?

  2. Gideon v. Wainwright and its progeny doesn’t really work in cases such as these, and I suspect nothing like this was contemplated by the Warren Court or its successors. At some point, such antics should be regarded as a form of a motion to proceed pro se.

  3. What’s next? An all Black jury? Is the judge Black or will that have to change?

    Maybe on Appeal he’ll say his Black lawyer was an Affirmative Action student and therefore he didn’t get competant council.

    Sorry, I think this guy is just using the system to cause as much chaos as possible.

  4. Should they try to accommodate such requests to facilitate the trial in your view?

    No. The State should be blind to race, gender and religion of public defenders that have passed the bar.

    I think perhaps it would be useful law to formally allow defendants up to two rejections without having to explain why; beyond that they need to give an actually valid reason. I have heard valid reasons; like a public defender that never met or interviewed his defendant before the trial, or one that kept falling asleep during the trial, or one that was demanding the defendant plea bargain for a reduced sentence because he didn’t have time for a trial.

    There are reasons the bench should accept in the interest of fairness and justice, but the judge should not consider one race more fair than another or one religion more fair than another. If the defendant can show plausible evidence that racial or religious or some other prejudice has led to faulty representation, that would be plausible grounds for replacement.

    But no, I do not think demands for specific physical, geographical, educational or religious or other characteristics should be honored.

  5. How many jurisdictions could take a stab at these folks…. You may not want to give him the attorney of choice…. But…. If the death penalty is involved…. One less appealable issue…..

  6. There must be lots of considerations here. I’m not saying race is NOT one of them because a defendant needs to be able to effectively communicate with counsel. It’s hard enough to communicate with lawyers PERIOD and anything that makes it easier is probably a good idea. I can’t figure out any more than that from the data provided. Weird damn case!

  7. “Should they try to accommodate such requests to facilitate the trial in your view?”

    No. If they are going to go beyond the basic requirements of counsel and let people choose though, I want the body of Raymond Burr. As Perry Mason, he won every case in prelims and surely must be the greatest attorney who ever lived. It’s no less ridiculous a request than being made in the instant case.

  8. Gene,

    I agree with you in principal….. But the practical realities….is this will be used as an appealable issue….

  9. His request is not racism as Turley asserts. Perhaps the jury pool that he will be diving into has some blacks on it and he wants to relate to them and get one or more on his jury panel. Maybe the first two JoeBobs from bumgarner NC are not up to speed or cant read. Does Turley know the difference between Durham and the town of Raleigh which is next door or the town of Asheville which is perched out by the mountains where they aint seen a black guy since the last lynching? Yeah, I would want a black guy from Durham too. And if I was in New York I probably would prefer one from Harlem than one from Long Island. Or in Turley’s neck of the woods, one from the City of DC proper rather than some white dude from out in Maryland suburbs.

  10. AY,

    And it should be handled like any other case reviewed on appeal for attorney misconduct or malpractice. If they got adequate representation is the relevant issue, not whether or not they were happy with the outcome of the trial.

  11. A lot of strawmen showed up today – guess they are easier to beat than dealing with the difficult issue this request raises.
    Carol, What if he demanded to be tried in an all black country!!!!

    While the court should try to be blind to race we are all aware it is not. This guy is probably looking at life (or death) and the request is not completely unreasonable.

    It does not hurt the case to allow it and denying it could be grounds for appeal (not saying it would be successful but it could be grounds). If he is just trying to drag the thing out he has sort of reached the end of his rope here and I would expect the court to be pretty unsympathetic to a new request for a lawyer.

  12. The guy may be gaming the system but the charge is extremely serious. I agree with BusterCherry. Give the guy the attorney he wants and make it clear that this IS his lawyer. No more changes.

  13. Buster: Being a citizen of Asheville, not sure where you’re getting your information. A’ville’s black population matches the nationwide percentage, and is a helluva lot more inclusive/progressive than many other areas of NC.

  14. In Durham we have a black woman DA who is often involved in controversy, to her disasvantage. Competence, as we all konw, does not come with skin color. But so far is aids empathy and trust.

    It’s your system, not mine.
    Here we get to choose the best, if you get them is another matter. Practical matters come first.

  15. I apologize to Pollyanna and all citizens of Asheville. My great uncle William Harris got lynched there in 1906 and the rest of the family moved North. I looked it up on the Lynching Calendar and here is their record of Lynchings in Asheville, NC:

    Hezekiah Rankin lynched Asheville No. Carolina September 25 1891
    Thomas Whitson lynched Asheville No. Carolina February 24 1893
    Wilson Whitson lynched Asheville No. Carolina February 24 1893
    William Harris lynched Asheville No. Carolina November 15 1906


    If you want to read about Judicial Lynchings go to the Stltoday site and look up George Allen. He just was released yesterday after 30 years in prison for a rape murder that he did not commit. City of Saint Louis 1982. A judge in Cole County (Jefferson City) ruled that the state had coerced a confession out of the retarded man and hide evidence which proved his innocence. Kudos to the innocence Project for taking his case and also to a young lawyer from Bryan Cave law firm.

  16. If he wants a black attorney, he can hire a black attorney. If he wants a free attorney, he should not care what race they are. He is obviously not racist for goodness sake…his wife is white.

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