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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Cincinnati Cop Gets New Trial In Gun-Theft Case: Lawyer Slept In Court

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A state appeals court says convicted Cincinnati police officer Edsel Edwards deserves a new trial because his lawyer nodded off and appeared to be sleeping at the defense table. At other times, the lawyer was described as incoherent. The complete text of the seven-page decision is here and it says the policeman was "prejudiced by his attorney's deficiencies."

Edwards, an eight-year veteran, was convicted of five counts of theft in office after a non-jury trial after his arrest in 2003. He was accused of stealing weapons and ammunition that a private citizens had been turned over to the Cincinnati police department for disposal. Edwards contended he logged a rifle and shotgun in the department's property room, and stayed late after his shift to complete paperwork on a .38-caliber pistol, a pellet gun, a box of ammo and two gun-cleaning kits. As the work dragged, he gave up, put the unlogged items in his car and went home. Other officers got a search warrant the next day and found the revolver concealed in Edwards' bedroom closet, the ammo in his car, and the pellet gun and cleaning kits in his bedroom.

Edwards said he put the revolver in the closet to keep it away from his young son.

The Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals ordered a new trial. It said the evidence against the Cincinnati police officer was strong, but that his defense lawyer was ineffective.

"In this case, England was not adequately represented. England presented evidence, including the testimony of the court reporter from the trial, that his attorney had appeared to have slept through extended periods of the trial and that at other times throughout the trial the attorney had appeared incoherent or inattentive. Although the record does not indicate the precise times during the trial that counsel was asleep, notable lapses in counsel's representation -- especially during the prosecutor's cross-examination of England -- convince us that the counsel's inattentiveness prejudiced England's right to a fair trial."

The case is State of Ohio v. Edsel England, C-060784. On appeal, the police officer was represented by Mchaela M. Stagnaro. The appeals court said the cop's original defense lawyer also failed to discuss the case with witnesses and allowed damaging testimony to be introduced that damaged England's cause.

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