Orleans lawyer may have to testify against client
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A prominent defense attorney could be forced to testify against his former client in a jail contraband case in New Orleans.
The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/153B6Ds ) that text messages between the two have surfaced. Prosecutors say the messages show that the defendant had a cellphone in jail while awaiting a murder trial.
In papers filed in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court on Thursday, prosecutors say defense attorney Jason Williams should take the stand in the contraband case against Orleans Parish Prison inmate Keith Kisack. The papers say Williams could confirm he exchanged messages with the phone number associated with a seized cellphone.
Kisack is charged with possessing contraband jailers say they found during a shakedown. He's also awaiting trial in a murder case.
Kisack's current attorney Ike Spears, who stepped in after the text messages surfaced, objected to calling Williams as a witness on the grounds of attorney-client privilege, a filing says. Spears and Williams both declined to comment on Thursday, saying they had not yet read the prosecutors' latest memo.
In the filing, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office argues the texts are not privileged because they are not about legal advice. Prosecutors point to text messages that Williams sent to the phone that are "of a social nature," such as a Dec. 8, 2011 message that read: "Grinding out. Trying to get as many folks out for Christmas as I can."
Prosecutors also say Williams sent other messages to the phone that read: "Happy Thanksgiving KK... We gonna try to make this your last one in that place." and "Merry Christmas man. Did you talk to your son".
Kisack allegedly responded with messages such as: "Merry X-Mas 2 u and ur. Hope u enjoy. Man i am bout to lose it. KK".
Dane Ciolino, a law professor at Loyola University, said the DA's office has a valid argument. "Not all communication between lawyers and their clients is privileged," Ciolino said. "It has to involve legal advice."
Even if Williams and Kisack were discussing legal advice, the mode of their discussion was illegal, which would nullify the attorney-client privilege, prosecutors argue in the memo, citing a "crime-fraud" exception under state law.