Comcast: The story that won't go away
Jan. 7, 2002
I noticed some time ago, while checking the U.S. District Court docket, that C.D. "Bubba" Newell had a new lawyer but it was not until the relative quiet of this holiday week that I had a chance to check on why.
I can't say I'm surprised by either the fact that appeals attorney Michele Fournet has been hired, or by what she had to say in her motion for new trial about Henry Palmer's defense of Newell.
Switching attorneys means the defendant's appeal can include a new area of complaints incompetence or misconduct on the trial attorney's part. You can't do that if the same lawyer who defended you is handling your appeal.
Palmer couldn't have made the arguments that Fournet did, and they open up a whole new set of legal issues. It's almost a given that the original trial attorney is going to get knocked around in a motion like Fournet's.
It's also important to realize that, procedurally, a "motion for new trial" is almost a formality. It is, after all, a list of errors the defendant's attorney feels the judge made in presiding over the trial in the first place.
To which the trial court judge's reply is, "Did not. Motion denied." But, the defendant's attorney can't move on to the appeals court in this case, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals until a new trial has been requested and denied in the original trial court.
Quick Comcast takes:
Almost exactly a year ago, one of Michele Fournet's clients walked off death row a free man after serving 13 years at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. If she can do that, she might be able to get Newell a new trial.
To prepare herself, Fournet read the transcript of the three-week Comcast trial. It encompasses 12 volumes, about 2,700 pages, not including some pre-trial material.
Newell has also hired attorney Richard Crane of Nashville, described as a specialist in federal sentencing.
Henry Palmer is no longer a partner in Palmer, Wright and Williamson. On Friday, as I tried to reach him for a comment on today's A1 story, a receptionist at the firm told me he was moving his office that very afternoon. There are a couple of rumors making the rounds about why he left, and what he's going to do next, but nothing that could be confirmed.
One of the other partners in that firm, Charlie Wright, represents Kary Graham, who was acquitted in the Comcast trial. Graham is now suing Comcast in Lauderdale County Chancery Court for payment of about $700,000 in outstanding invoices. That trial is expected to take place in the next couple of months. Graham has also filed a $150 million lawsuit against the cable company in U.S. District Court claiming "malicious prosecution."