John Michael Farren has had a career that most lawyers would envy. He is a former White House attorney advising George W. Bush and the former general counsel of Xerox. He is now however a criminal defendant with a bench warrant out for his arrest. Farren, 60, failed to show up for a trial on his alleged beating of his former wife, Mary Margaret Farren, 46. We previously discussed the case. Mary Farren suffered extensive injuries in the beating at their New Canaan Mansion after she said she refused to reconsider her demand for a divorce. He was criminally charged with attempted murder, two counts of first-degree assault and risk of injury to a child.
In addition to serving as Deputy White House Counsel in the Office of Counsel to the President from 2007 to 2009, he served as Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade at the United States Department of Commerce and head of the International Trade Administration. He also did a stint with the Republican National Committee.
The horrific attack left her with a broken jaw and broke nose that took place at their mansion. A video from the hospital documented a gash to the scalp, hair matted with blood, two black eyes, bruising all over the face and the right side of her throat cut in addition to cuts and bruises on the rest of her body. She sued Farren for millions and he decided to represent himself — an extremely bad decision in such a case.
Judge Robert Genuario said that his chambers received an email from Farren stating that he was being treated at a Hartford hospital and could not make it to court.
Genaurio granted a default motion against Farren but Farren could file a motion to vacate later to seek a trial. He better hurry. The Court is proceeding with testimony on damages, which will be difficult to get reversed.
If Farren was hospitalized, it is usually a good basis for a continuation if you are representing yourself. However, Farren reportedly failed to respond to inquiries from the court. He could face an effort to seize his accounts and home while trying to fund his criminal defense. In a true reversal of fortunes, he has indicated that he lacks money for a criminal defense.
Farren has suggested that he was suffering from either a brain or mental illness at the time of the offense. He could face 70 years on the criminal charges. His plan to raise an insanity defense is a difficult but perhaps the only viable defense. Connecticut’s standard however is better than many states that have pared down the defense to an extremely narrow range of mental illness. Here is the standard:
Sec. 53a-13. Lack of capacity due to mental disease or defect as affirmative defense. (a) In any prosecution for an offense, it shall be an affirmative defense that the defendant, at the time he committed the proscribed act or acts, lacked substantial capacity, as a result of mental disease or defect, either to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to control his conduct within the requirements of the law.
Farren received his bachelor’s degree from Fairfield University, a master’s degree in public policy analysis from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and a law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law.
Mary Farren is a partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.