Wednesday, November 17, 1999

Cop killer resigns as lawyer

Future uncertain after protests over admission to bar

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Just days after he was sworn in as a lawyer, convicted killer Derek Anthony Farmer is out of a job.

        Mr. Farmer, who served 18 years in prison for murder, told his employer Tuesday that he would leave the Cincinnati law firm because of the controversy over his status as an attorney.

        “It was just a decision Derek came to,” said Mr. Farmer's boss, defense attorney Kenneth Lawson. “He didn't want to bring undue heat to the firm's clients.”

        Mr. Farmer would not comment, but Mr. Lawson said his departure was voluntary.

        Mr. Farmer became the focus of complaints from police and prosecutors this weekend when he was sworn in as an attorney despite his criminal record.

        The 42-year-old attorney was convicted 25 years ago on charges of aiding and abetting the shooting deaths of a police officer and a civil rights activist in Dayton, Ohio.

        The shootings occurred as Mr. Farmer, then 16, fled after robbing a jewelry store with his 18-year-old nephew, Calvin Farmer.

        The judge at his trial concluded that Derek Farmer did not fire the shots, but he sentenced him to life in prison. He was paroled in 1992.

        Upon his release, Mr. Farmer went to college and graduated from law school at the University of Akron.

        A review panel of the Ohio Supreme Court considered Mr. Farmer's case last year and decided he should be allowed to take the exam required to become a lawyer.

        They noted he was only 16 at the time of the crime and concluded he had made many positive changes in his life while in prison.

        But law enforcement officials said Mr. Farmer should not be given a law license. And a Hamilton County judge said Monday that he was so outraged over the case that Mr. Farmer could not practice in his courtroom.

        Mr. Lawson said his former employee does not yet know where he will go to work next.

        He said he hired Mr. Farmer as a law clerk earlier this year. He said most of his duties have involved researching cases, not practicing in court.

        Prosecutor Mike Allen and some of the victims' relatives say they remain angered that Mr. Farmer was even considered for a law license.

        Mr. Allen said his office has found at least eight cases in which prospective lawyers were barred from taking the exam, even though their offenses were less severe than Mr. Farmer's.

        The list of applicants, which goes back to 1994, includes people with alcohol problems, shoplifting arrests and one man who was accused of stealing his girlfriend's cat.

        Although some eventually were allowed to take the test, all of them had to wait at least a year or more for another review of their records.

        “These people were not allowed to take it, and here you have a guy convicted of murder and they practically give him the red carpet treatment,” Mr. Allen said. “The message it sends is that there are no standards.”


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