Attorney refuses to testify against former client, sent to jail - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

6/11/09

Attorney refuses to testify against former client, sent to jail

Source: Lubbock Sheriffs Office Source: Lubbock Sheriffs Office

By Ann Wyatt Little  - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - A local attorney went to jail rather than testify against a former client Thursday.

Before a Lubbock jury sentenced Donald Johnson to 25-years in prison, the sitting judge sent Johnson's former attorney to jail. Johnson's former court-appointed attorney Ben Webb was subpoenaed June 2nd to testify against his client. Citing attorney-client privilege, Webb refused to answer the prosecution's questions. The 140th District Court's Judge Jim Bob Darnell found Webb in contempt of the court. NewsChannel 11 spoke with a colleague of Webb, local Criminal Defense Attorney David Guinn who says Webb did the right thing.

"He's in a rock and a hard place. Go to jail or risk his law license. He didn't do the wrong thing," says Guinn. Attorney Ben Webb took the stand in 140th District Court Thursday where he was subpoenaed June 2nd to testify during the punishment phase against his former client 29-year-old Donald Johnson, a man Lubbock jurors sentenced to 40-years behind bars for robbery and assault on a peace officer.

"He obeyed his ethical duties under the rule for privilege of what he's supposed to do and not do," adds Guinn. On the stand, Webb did not answer questions prosecutors presented before him about why Johnson did not initially show up for his trial date that was set for July of 2008. District Court Judge Jim Bob Darnell found Webb in contempt of court. Guinn says Webb was cuffed and walked to the Lubbock County Jail where he quickly bonded out. "I think the judge focused on confidential communication. Under rule 503(b)(2) any fact lawyer learns in course of representation or by virtue of representation is what he's bound by," says Guinn of the law. He adds Thursday's judicial action sends a message."It's a pretty scary message for folks who may have a case in 140th District Court with Judge Darnell be ware your lawyer could be used against you in the future," says Guinn. Judge Darnell could not be reached for comment.

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