Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Dangers of Public Defense

Defendant, 18, attacks his lawyer in Hennepin Co. court
In Hennepin County Court, Dominique C.D. Cook lunged at his public defender, Fay Nosow, and hit her face. She was hospitalized.

By ROCHELLE OLSON and LORA PABST, Star Tribune staff writers

April 14, 2009 - 8:05 AM

A Hennepin County public defender was injured Monday when her 18-year-old client hit her in the face just before his hearing in a juvenile courtroom, authorities said.

Dominique C.D. Cook, who turned 18 in January, was making an appearance in front of Judge David Duffy on a bail issue for a juvenile case. Duffy was finishing up his paperwork from the previous case when he heard longtime public defender Fay Nosow scream, he said Monday evening.

Cook "was about ready to sit in his chair in the courtroom when he suddenly lunged at his own attorney," said Hennepin County sheriff's office spokeswoman Lisa Kiava.

Two sheriff's deputies were standing a couple of yards away from Cook and Nosow in the closed courtroom. They were able to subdue Cook, but not before he hit his attorney at least a couple of times, Kiava said. He did not have a weapon.

Duffy said he was looking down when Cook struck his lawyer so he didn't see the entire attack. He ran down to see Nosow, who was lying on the floor in "quite a pool of blood" with a cut above her eye. "She was quite upset," he said.

Because of the blood and the appearance of a head injury, court personnel called for an ambulance, which took Nosow to Hennepin County Medical Center. Her condition is not known.

Nosow, 58, a public defender for at least the past 15 years, was coherent and talking, and concerned about her child, who was due to come home from school, Duffy said.

It's unclear what might have prompted the attack or if Cook said anything before he lunged for Nosow. "This was a surprise and unprovoked," Kiava said.

Because Cook is now an adult, he was booked into the Hennepin County Adult Detention Center on suspicion of third-degree assault. He has not been charged.

After the attack, presiding Juvenile Judge Kathryn Quaintance sent an e-mail to court personnel saying that an incident had occurred in the Juvenile Justice Center in the 600 block of S. 6th St. during which Nosow suffered "fairly serious injuries to her face."

"This occurred very suddenly and all court personnel responded well," Quaintance wrote in the e-mail.

Sheriff's deputies provide courtroom security, but they don't necessarily stand next to a defendant, Kiava said. Hennepin County sheriff's detectives and the crime lab are continuing to investigate.

Duffy said violence in the courtroom is rare, but it happens.

"It's part of the job. It's obviously very upsetting to everyone," he said. "It's a very emotional place, the courtroom, and people don't leave their emotions at the door."

Last June, convicted double murderer Revelle Loving punched his lawyer, William Selman, in a Hennepin County District courtroom. Selman, who has been a defense lawyer for about two decades, said he had never before been hit by a client.

Earlier in 2008, the state Court of Appeals rejected an appeal for a new trial from a St. Louis County man who repeatedly punched his defense lawyer in the face. The court ruled the man gave up his right to counsel and he went on to unsuccessfully represent himself.

Nosow is one of more than 100 public defenders in Hennepin County.

rolson@startribune.com • 612-673-1747 lpabst@startribune.com • 612-673-4628

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