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Lawyer Admits Sabotaging Death Row Inmate's Case

November 03, 2000|From Associated Press

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A lawyer for a death row inmate has stepped forward and admitted sabotaging his client's appeals because he didn't like the man and thought he ought to be executed.

The disclosure came Wednesday in the case of 34-year-old Russell Tucker, who is scheduled to die Dec. 7 for the 1994 murder of a security guard.

A remorseful David B. Smith said he caused his co-counsel to miss a key state Supreme Court deadline for filing one of Tucker's appeals.

"I decided that Mr. Tucker deserved to die, and I would not do anything to prevent his execution," Smith said in a recent affidavit.

On Wednesday, co-counsel Steven Allen asked a Superior Court judge to allow the appeal to be heard and to appoint new lawyers for Tucker. But the judge said both questions are up to the Supreme Court.

In any event, the execution will probably be delayed because the federal courts have yet to hear the case.

Asked why he decided to come forward, Smith said: "It was something I had to do. I had to disclose that I had failed him. I had to tell the truth, and that's not always an easy thing to do."

Allen defended Smith's behavior, saying it was uncharacteristic.

"He was sick at the time he was asked to accept this representation," Allen said. "Mr. Smith is a very fine lawyer who was working under very difficult circumstances. He was put in the situation when his life was under a lot of stress and he was not able to offer his usual level of legal representation."

In his affidavit, Smith said he met with the defendant in prison and decided he didn't like him. Then he read the transcripts from the trial and concluded, "Mr. Tucker should be executed for his crimes."

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