June 20, 2021
Lawrence, US 80 F
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Decision on Rontarus Washington Jr.’s defense attorneys still pending; state files motion to hold them in civil contempt

Updated at 4:40 p.m. Wednesday, April 7, to add background:

A judge refrained from ruling on Rontarus Washington Jr.’s defense attorneys’ motions to withdraw once again Wednesday, to allow Washington more time to speak with a third attorney about the situation.

Meanwhile, the state has filed two new motions: an amended motion for a gag order, and a “Motion to Hold Defense Counsel Angela Keck and Adam Hall In Civil Contempt.”

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The court clerk’s office told the Times that those motions were filed under seal, however, and there was no discussion of their contents in court Wednesday.

Washington is charged with first-degree attempted murder and aggravated burglary in connection with the November 2014 death of a woman who lived in his apartment building. For all but roughly the first year of the case, Hall and Keck have served as Washington’s defense attorneys, but they both recently filed motions to withdraw, as the Times reported.

The reasons for the requests to withdraw have not been made clear in public court. Instead, Washington, Keck and Hall have met with the judge in the jury deliberation room. At times, prosecutors David Melton and Alice Walker have also been included in the conversations, but very little detail has been discussed publicly in the courtroom.

At the last hearing, on March 25, Douglas County District Court Chief Judge James McCabria appointed Carol Cline to advise Washington of his rights in the situation. Appointing anyone new to defend Washington in the criminal case would not be as easy as picking the next name off the list, McCabria has said.

Wednesday morning, after Washington and Cline joined the judge for about 45 minutes in another closed-door meeting, McCabria said he wanted to give them more time to discuss the issue and determine what Washington wants to do.

A Daubert hearing — a hearing to determine whether a scientific expert is qualified to testify in a case — was set for Monday, but Keck said the defense would not be prepared for that to move forward.

Instead, the case was continued to 4 p.m. April 20, when McCabria said he intends to rule on the motions to withdraw.

More coverage: Rontarus Washington Jr. case

• June 9, 2021: Rontarus Washington Jr.’s attorney on podcast: Hopeful to convince DA that case isn’t a ‘sound prosecution’

• May 4, 2021: Retrial for Rontarus Washington Jr. could come in 2022; alternative suspect won’t be charged in alleged sex crime

• April 20, 2021: Rontarus Washington Jr. to be represented by Innocence Project, attorney tells judge

• April 7, 2021: Decision on Rontarus Washington Jr.’s defense attorneys still pending; state files motion to hold them in civil contempt

• March 25, 2021: Defense counsel will stay on Rontarus Washington Jr. case, for now

• March 18, 2021: Rontarus Washington Jr.’s defense team requests to withdraw, but first alleges prosecutorial bias

• March 12, 2021: Sex crime report raises new questions about alternative suspect in Rontarus Washington Jr. murder case

Other coverage:

April 6, 2021: Alonzo Brooks’ death was a homicide, FBI confirms; ex-coroner for Douglas County had ruled cause undetermined

— Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached via email at mclark@lawrencekstimes.com or 785-422-6363.

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