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Guns at the court

A pharmacist in OK is accused of murder. In lieu of payment to his lawyer, he gave his lawyer his guns. It’s a fairly common practice for folks with large collections of weapons who maybe going to trial to place weapons in their lawyer’s custody to avoid confiscation of them. The lawyer can, then, lawfully sell them or retain them until the trial is over, unless the weapons were involved in the crime, of course. So, this doesn’t seem that unusual.

But the judge asked, as part of the bail, that the defendant relinquish all weapons. When asked where they were, he said he gave them to his lawyer. The judge wanted a list and the lawyer said no because that information could be used against his client. And, I’m sure, the prosecutor would happily point out to a jury how many weapons this gun nut owned, as though that were a bad thing. The judge was not amused and threatened to put the guy back in jail for not answering. Judge was reminded of that whole fifth amendment and finally said uncle. But says, in the future, she will not allow lawyers to accept weapons as payment. Really? Seems to me the contract between two people isn’t her concern.

More here.

Dave Hoffman implies the alleged crime gun was among them. I’m pretty sure that gun is in police custody somewhere.

Via reader JKB, who posits:

My wonder is, if you can’t let your attorney take possession of your weapons and if you turn them over to the local police they are likely to not be returned regardless of the outcome of the proceedings, what is permitted and how do you prevent the court ordered surrender from prejudicing your defense?

16 Responses to “Guns at the court”

  1. nk Says:

    I am an attorney, and although I have never faced this issue in court, I have wondered about it. I also wonder whether I might not find the answer at my gun shop — it offers sale by consignment, intermediary FFL for a small fee for private transactions, and storage. Specifically, would they rent me, say a year’s storage, and keep the key until I asked for it?

  2. SayUncle Says:

    Could be. but if the police showed up at the gun dealers, they’d turn them over. i doubt a lawyer would.

  3. Mikee Says:

    IANAL, but seems to me that if you store your firearms with someone, they are still legally yours.

    Leaving them on “consignment” at prices $1000 over the retail of each gun would similarly leave them in your legal possession.

    Giving the firearms to your attorney in lieu of payment seems tome to transfer the ownership to the attorney, and removes them from your legal ownership.

    I am wondering what authority the judge has to confiscate all firearms from the defendant before trial? Confiscating the firearm involved in the charged offense makes sense, as would confiscating for testing any guns under suspicion of use, but if my shotgun was at home and the robber was killed with a handgun, the shotgun seems to be mine until I get convicted of a felony.

    Any lawyers out there, or should this go to volokh.com?

  4. Kirk Parker Says:

    How in the world can he be being charged with first-degree murder? Surely the prosecution can’t really be planning to demonstrate that he planned this out ahead of time. Or is their something wierd about OK law in this regard?

  5. nk Says:

    Mikee, #3, I am looking at it from a “possession” point of view and not a “right to property” one. Because the laws are written that way. We can own firearms, the difference is where we can have them at.

  6. ka Says:

    “How in the world can he be being charged with first-degree murder?”

    The only thing I have been able to come up with is that the DA is trying to placate the race baiters in our state. Right after the shooting there were demonstrations and such by the community (robber black, shooter white). With the first-degree charge the DA gets to say to the community that he tried to do something. However, it doesn’t seem likely that the guy would/could actually be convicted of it; so the shooter gets off.

    I am no lawyer so I could totally be wrong about all of that.

    I am a voter though and in at least the waco circles I hang out it everyone is talking about the next election and who our new DA might be. The last guy to hold the job was very popular right up until he made one colossal mistake, then he got the boot out the door. Nobody I know is happy about the pharmacist being charged.

  7. Paul Says:

    A lawyer is an officer of the court and as such should be legally able to hold guns.

    Judge asking for the rest of your guns that were not used in a crime is a crime.

    The OK guy was ok on the shooting till he came back to the perp lying on the ground and pumped 5 more into him. He may still get off, but it is looking dim.

  8. Paul Says:

    I’m at best a jail house lawyer…follow my advice and you could wind up in a jail house 🙂

  9. nk Says:

    The OK guy was ok on the shooting till he came back to the perp lying on the ground and pumped 5 more into him. He may still get off, but it is looking dim.

    If I were on the jury, guilty for dispensing retroactive birth control without a doctor’s prescription.

  10. comatus Says:

    Just throwing this in, I’m sure most here know it, but this is an interesting and very old question. I mean really old. The “deposit of arms” argument is in the first definition of justice in the dialogues of Plato.

    In that instance, a definition of justice is offered as “rendering what is due.” Fair enough, the rabble-rousing Socrates pretends to agree, but say a friend leaves his arms in your care. When he comes to retrieve them, he is clearly insane. Is justice done by rendering back his property? Well, that pretty much tears that one up, and the guys move on to “what pleases the Gods.”

    Not exactly the case here (I hope), but up the same alley, and you know the guys who wrote the Constitution had read it. Some of them, in Greek.

  11. ParatrooperJJ Says:

    Mikee – Once you are indicted for a felony, you are a prohibited person until the conclusion of the case.

  12. K. Says:

    My department will take guns for safekeeping (consensually only). I’ve never heard of a case where they were not returned upon demand. The serial numbers are recorded (so we get the right gun back to the right person) but not kept in any sort of database, and the guns are never fired or otherwise handled beyond putting zip ties through the action and storing them in cardboard boxes.

  13. SayUncle Says:

    K., several instances in other regions of the country. I’m sure you could guess where.

  14. Rabbit Says:

    My question is:

    “Did the Court, in fact, just make the defendant an unarmed, unprotected target for retaliation from associates, sympathizers, or future attempts at robbery by compelling the surrender of all his means of self-protection?”

    I suppose now he’ll have to hire an armed security guard to physically be on the premises until his acquittal. I sincerely doubt there will be ‘extra patrols’ of the local police force.

    Regards,
    Rabbit.

  15. mikeb302000 Says:

    I don’t think it’s at all uncommon for defense attorneys to take goods in lieu of cash payment. But in this case is seems to me like an attempt to beat the system. Immediately the questions of how many guns he owns and what kind are blocked. Also blocked would be any court order to surrender weapons. There might be even more advantages to the defense that I haven’t thought of.

    I come to that conclusion because if he was able to come up with the bail he probably could have paid his lawyer in some other way besides giving him the guns.

  16. JJR Says:

    I have a feeling the pharmacist is going to get convicted or do a plea bargain; 2nd degree murder or manslaughter. He stopped the threat with shot number 1. If shots 2-6 had followed in unbroken rapid succession, no problem. But it seems it didn’t go down that way. The DA is just doing his job, regardless of public outcry pro or con.

    As far as the issue of payment in firearms, a perfectly legal transaction between two private individuals. I’ve heard of country lawyers being paid chickens by farmers. The attorney sounds knowledgeable and sharp, and I hope he is able to get the best outcome possible for his client.