Macon attorney Veronica Brinson stood alone in front of Georgia Supreme Court justices Tuesday in a nearly empty chamber, telling them that she was treated unfairly when she was kicked off the defense in a Macon murder case.
“I will ask the court to vacate those orders and find that those orders were unlawful,” Brinson said.
She’s appealing a judge’s 2014 finding that she should pay a $750 fine or serve time in jail for contempt of court. A judge found that Brinson continued to file paperwork in a case even though another judge had removed her for being ineffective in her defense of a man charged with murder.
Brinson has long disputed the contentions, saying that the proceedings against her were full of errors. But she’s also been accused in a separate contempt case this year as well.
Late in 2012, Linda Hunnicutt, 65, was shot to death at an east Macon gas station. A man named Frank Reeves was charged with the crime, and he and his family hired Brinson for the defense.
But by the time jury selection was about to start in 2014, Superior Court Judge Howard Simms thought that Brinson was failing Reeves, then 74, and jeopardizing his right to a viable defense.
Simms, in a written statement at the time, said Brinson had failed to adequately prepare and adequately investigate the case, or to adequately understand the basic rules necessary to defend Reeves. The judge said Brinson had filed important papers late and did not review evidence in a timely manner. Simms also maintained that Brinson had a history of filing false and malicious complaints against judges as well as frivolous motions and groundless requests.
Simms kicked Brinson off the case and replaced her with a public defender.
At the time, Brinson said she thought Simms’ order may have been in response to her own request that he be removed from the case due to concerns that he might be biased.
Simms also announced in 2014 that his clerk would not accept any filings from Brinson on the case unless he, the judge, decided to allow it.
What landed Brinson in the Georgia Supreme Court is a finding that she submitted documents to Simms’ court after she was barred from doing so. Brinson said in 2014 that she would not have filed the papers had she known she was barred from doing so. The finding came from retired Superior Court Judge John D. Allen, brought in from the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit to decide the case.
In the Atlanta courtroom, Brinson followed up on her promise to contest the ouster. Her voice quivering, sometimes to the point of being hard to understand, she flipped back and forth through a thick notebook as she laid out her arguments.
She said she was denied due process and did not get a fair chance to answer Simms’ complaints about her. She said she wants to know why she was removed just before Reeves’ trial, though she had worked on it for months.
Now she will probably wait a few more months. The Georgia Supreme Court decides most cases in about six months.
Reeves, the man charged with murder, was deemed incompetent to stand trial earlier this year. He was ordered to Central State Hospital for treatment and may stand trial if he regains competency.
Brinson is also in contempt trouble in an unrelated civil case. In May, a judge ordered her to report to jail for failing to supply documents in a harassment case she lost against another attorney. She paid a bond in that case and said she also planned to appeal that order.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.
Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee