Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Defense Attorney Attacked by Client in San Fernando Courtroom
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A deputy alternate public defender was treated and released yesterday after being attacked by her client in a San Fernando courtroom, officials told the MetNews.
Linda Wieder, 55, was slashed in the arm with a razor blade by Erick Morales at about 11:35 a.m., the sources said. Morales and Wieder were at counsel table in the courtroom where Morales is being tried for murder before Judge Ronald Coen.
Supervisors at the Alternate Public Defender’s Office said Wieder took five stitches. Results of blood tests were unavailable.
Wieder’s supervisor, Hank Hall, said he expected Wieder to return to work today. “If nothing else, she’s been a trooper,” Hall said.
The stabbing occurred on the same day the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta reopened, with increased attention paid to security following Friday’s fatal shootings of a judge, a court reporter, and a sheriff’s deputy. The Associated Press and the New York Times yesterday both quoted members of Atlanta’s legal community critical of security procedures at the courthouse.
Hall said he had no similar criticisms about the way things are handled in San Fernando. “The Sheriff’s Department is very conscious of courtroom security,” but some disruptions are inevitable, he said.
Assaults by clients are “an occupational hazard,” for defense lawyers, although weapons are rarely involved, Hall commented. Prosecutors and judges are usually seen as “just doing their jobs,” he said, while the defense lawyers tend to get blamed when cases are not going well.
The assaults are often strategic moves by defendants who want to create conflicts that will force judges to appoint new lawyers, Hall explained, although he had no specific information about Morales.
Morales, 27, was described in one news account as an “enforcer” for Mara Salvatrucha, a Salvadoran gang with a presence in both the Rampart area of central Los Angeles and in the San Fernando Valley.
He allegedly killed two of the gang’s own members and someone else in El Salvador, later fleeing to Oregon, where he underwent a religious conversion and turned himself in to police, according to a news account.
In a written statement, District Attorney Steve Cooley said, “We prosecute serious felonies daily in the nation’s largest criminal justice system.
“Violent acts historically have occurred in L.A.’s justice system,” he said. “We will work with all parties to minimize the danger to everyone in Los Angeles County’s courtrooms.”
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company