07/26/2005

Chicago jurors rushed from court as angry defendant turns on his lawyers

By MIKE ROBINSON
Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO- Jurors were hurried out of a federal courtroom by U.S. marshals Monday as a former death row inmate, on trial for drug and weapons charges, suddenly turned on his own lawyers, pushing them and yelling that he was being framed.

Other marshals wrestled the bellowing defendant out of court, and a nurse was called to put an ice pack on the ankle of defense attorney Tom Brewer.

Defendant Aaron Patterson had been chastised during previous hearings for talking back to the judge. But Brewer, a former FBI agent, suggested a possible new instigation for Monday's outburst: He said Patterson's former lawyer had told Patterson during a jailhouse visit that Brewer was still working undercover for the FBI.

U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer ordered the former lawyer brought before her for questioning. She also denied requests for a mistrial after Patterson's outburst, saying it would "reward his behavior, which I believe was intentional."

Patterson, now 40, spent 17 years in prison for a double murder he has always insisted he didn't commit. He was freed when former Gov. George Ryan cleared death row in 2003 over concerns about the reliability of the justice system.

Patterson emerged from prison saying he would dedicate his life to ferreting out corruption.

He is now charged with brokering heroin sales to a government informant, selling marijuana and illegally buying four guns. He claims he was set up by the police he was investigating.

A police witness was on the stand Monday when Patterson started yelling at and pushing his attorneys.

"Something like, we were trying to blow his case or throw his case," Brewer related.

Patterson had been represented by Demitrus Evans, but the judge released Evans from the case after she staged two tearful walkouts from court in as many days.

Brewer and defense attorney Paul Camarena told the judge Monday that Evans had visited their client in jail, accused them of trying to lose the case and Brewer of being "the head FBI agent."

Pallmeyer had marshals bring Evans to the courthouse late Monday and questioned her.

"You really don't believe that Mr. Brewer is the head agent?" Pallmeyer asked her.

Evans replied that Brewer had used that phrase in a conversation to describe his own role.

The judge told her: "I do regard a statement that a criminal defense attorney representing an individual is in fact under cover as an FBI agent is a hideous slander." She then said: "We're adjourned."

Earlier, the judge ordered marshals to accompany Evans to her office to collect "every shred" of evidence pertaining to the case. Brewer and Camarena had complained she was hoarding evidence she no longer needed.

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