DAYTON (TDB) -- An Ohio lawyer asked to withdraw as defense lawyer for a death row inmate because he's ended his criminal law practice and no longer can wait for the convicted killer's case to sit without judicial action. The lawyer said the case has been fully briefed since January 2005. Geoffrey J. Moul, a private attorney based in Columbus, made the request to step aside Thursday in a motion filed with U.S. District Judge Walter H. Rice.
Moul has represented Bobby T. Sheppard, 30, in a federal habeas corpus proceeding that challenges a death sentence issued in Hamilton County. (Southern District of Ohio, 1:00-cv-493.) Sheppard was convicted of shooting a drive-thru maket owner in the back of the head during an August 1994 robbbery.
Prosecutors and pro-death penalty politicians have complained over the yerars that federal courts are slow in reviewing death penalty challenges. Outgoing Ohio Auditor Betty Montgomery used to publish a list of what she considered stalled cases during the years she served as Attorney General. And while Moul was not complaining, he did point out that the snag in Sheppard's case was the judge.
''This case has been fully litigated in this court," Moul said in the motion filed with Judge Rice. ''There has been no activity in this case for nearly two years."
Moul's court filing said a magistrate has ruled in Sheppard's favor, and the state attorney general's office has objected. He said the next move is up to Rice, who has had all the legal briefs before him since Jan. 25, 2005. ''The next step in this case is for the court to issue a ruling on the objections and then, win or lose, for the warden to file an appeal or for Mr. Sheppard to file a request for a certificate of appealabilty. Mr. Moul, however, is no longer comfortable that his representation will best serve Mr. Sheppard. During the last two years, Mr. Moul has ended his criminal practice."
Moul said he wasn't comfortable he had kept up with legal developments in relevant areas ''and given the passage of time and stage of this matter, seeks to withdraw here in this case at this time."