I don’t know a lawyer that doesn’t remember watching that terrifying news video of the attempted murder of probate attorney Gerald Curry outside a Van Nuys, CA court in 2003. It was all caught on tape as Curry was chased around a tree and shot at by a gun-toting disgruntled client William Strier. Curry miraculously survived. CNN.com – Then & Now: Gerald Curry.
Comes with the territory.
The phenomena of violence on lawyers is hardly new. It’s as old as time. Indeed, after the Gerald Curry attack, an overview written by Diane Curtis entitled, “Lawyering can be a dangerous job,” appeared in the March 2004 California Bar Journal.
In the past few days, lawyers and the public were again reminded of how dangerous the practice of law can sometimes be. On Friday, June 11, 2010, St. Paul, Minnesota divorce lawyer Terri Ann Melcher was stabbed by her client’s angry ex-husband. According to the criminal complaint, the suspect, Sheikh Nyane, entered Melcher’s office and stabbed her repeatedly in the face and throat. Nyane was furious after losing physical and legal custody of his child June 11. See Attorney Stabbed by Client’s Ex-Husband in Fridley Office.
Unfortunately for Melcher, a telephoned warning left by Nyane’s lawyer was received too late. The good news is that Melcher is expected to survive.
And then out of the Pacific Northwest, there’s the terrible tale of Oregon real estate and construction lawyer Art Tarlow. He was found dead of four gunshot wounds, also last Friday.
Tarlow split time between his home in Portland and a beachfront home in the Dominican Republic. He maintained offices in both places. He was murdered in his Dominican Republic home.
Although it’s too early to determine motives, one report states that suspicions have led to people involved in a hotel casino real estate project. Portland attorney gunned down in the Dominican Republic and Arrests made in killing of Portland lawyer Art Tarlow.
Because of the volatility, contentiousness and emotional strains involved, divorce lawyers are especially vulnerable. Terri Ann Melcher’s assault was not that unusual.
Just this past February, for example, 61-year old divorce lawyer J. Redmond Coyle was shot down in a parking lot behind his Pickens, South Carolina office. The crime was witnessed by an off-duty policeman who said that after the gunman, Jerry Dean Crenshaw, shot Coyle, he then turned the 9 mm weapon on himself. Crenshaw left a note in his car saying he intended to kill Coyle who was his ex-wife’s divorce lawyer. South Carolina Lawyer Is Shot and Killed Outside His Office.
And it was approximately 4 years ago this month that Reno, NV Family Court Judge Chuck Weller was shot in the chest by angry husband, Darren Mack. The bitter divorce of Darren and Charla Mack was being heard in Judge Weller’s court. Darren Mack was subsequently convicted of not only shooting the judge but of murdering his wife. Darren Mack Gets Maximum Sentence for Killing Wife, Shooting Judge.
Dangers of criminal defense.
Criminal defense lawyers also admit that dangers come with their territory. In Philadelphia this month, there was a news report of criminal defense lawyer William Bowe being punched twice by his client in open court. Accused Philly cop killer assaults lawyer in court.
Bowe’s court-appointed client, Eric Floyd, faces attempted murder charges in the slaying of a policeman. Floyd had said he intended to remain disruptive if he couldn’t fire Bowe. I doubt there will be any problems now with Floyd finding new counsel.
Unexplained case-related violence.
And finally, the ABAJournal.com recently reported a spike in case-related violence across the globe. Belgium, England and China have each recently experienced serious case-related violence directed not only at lawyers but also at judges.