The 1st-degree murder trial of a man accused of killing his landlady and burning her up in a car was continued indefinitely this morning after one of his attorneys was allowed to withdraw.
Scott Robert Speakman was scheduled to go to trial later this month in Forsyth Superior Court on charges of first-degree murder in the death of Loyola Strader, 63, in November 2006. He faces the death penalty.
Vince Rabil, one of Speakman's attorneys, was allowed to withdraw as counsel after a closed ex-parte hearing in Forsyth Superior Court this morning. An ex-parte hearing is an emergency hearing in which only one party in a criminal matter is present.
In this case, Judge Edgar Gregory of Forsyth Superior Court cleared the courtroom and only allowed Speakman, Rabil, and Clark Fischer, Speakman's other attorney, at the hearing. Dudley Witt, who represents Rabil, was also at the hearing.
Forsyth District Attorney Jim O'Neill and Assistant District Attorney David Sipprell left the courtroom after Gregory closed the courtroom.
After about an hour, Gregory opened the courtroom and announced that he had found good cause to allow Rabil to withdraw as counsel. He ordered that the transcript of the closed hearing be sealed, and the reasons for Rabil's withdrawal were kept confidential.
Gregory was supposed to hear pre-trial motions in the case this week, including one that argues for an end-run around the Racial Justice Act. That motion says that statewide statistics could be used to claim racial discrimination, even without the Racial Justice Act.
Now that Rabil has withdrawn as counsel, the N.C. Office of the Capital Defender will assign Speakman another attorney. Defendants facing the death penalty have to have two attorneys representing them.
Gregory said that the pre-trial motions will be heard at a later date. A new trial date will have to be scheduled.
(source: Winston-Salem Journal)