Judges: No new lawyers in 2 cases

Two judges refused Thursday to let the Baton Rouge Capital Conflict Office withdraw from representing accused killers Aramis Jackson and Courtney Williams in separate first-degree murder cases.

BRCCO director David Price said his office will ask the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to review both rulings.

Jackson, 23, of Baton Rouge, is charged with one count each of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in the September 2010 home-invasion slaying of Alexandra Engler, 42, and wounding of her young daughter in their Beauregard Town residence.

Williams, 22, also of Baton Rouge, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the September 2011 killing of his former girlfriend, Clarissa Cobbing, 19, and two other women in a north Baton Rouge home. The others killed were Britney Lee, 18, and Josephine Lathers, 76, who was Lee’s grandmother.

In attempting to withdraw from the cases based on an alleged conflict of interest, BRCCO attorneys argued Thursday that Percy Dyer, who is Jackson’s father, is a potential witness in the Jackson case and also is involved in the case against Williams.

Dyer is the father of Cobbing’s child, who also is the victim of two alleged kidnappings and an alleged attempted aggravated arson, all of which were allegedly committed by Williams, the attorneys have stated in court documents.

The BRCCO represents Williams on those charges as well, the documents state.

BRCCO attorney Kyla Romanach argued to state District Judge Richard Anderson, who is presiding over Williams’ capital murder case, that Dyer will be a witness for the defense in Jackson’s capital murder case. She said it will be difficult for BRCCO to establish trust with the Jackson family if BRCCO also represents the man accused of killing Dyer’s significant other and committing crimes against his child.

“I don’t see where this conflict would prevent you from representing him (Williams),” Anderson told Romanach.

Prosecutor Dana Cummings said she does not intend to call Dyer as a witness at Williams’ trial.

Price made the same argument to state District Judge Tony Marabella, who is presiding over Jackson’s case, that Romanach made to Anderson. Price added that Jackson has a constitutional right to “conflict-free counsel.”

“They have failed to show there is a conflict in the Aramis Jackson case,” prosecutor Darwin Miller told Marabella.

Marabella agreed and said, “If there is a conflict, it is not in the Aramis Jackson case.”

Price said outside Marabella’s courtroom that the rulings by both judges have left his office in a “difficult position.”

“We’re still kind of caught here,” he said. “We don’t feel we can represent both (Jackson and Williams).”

BRCCO took over Jackson’s case from the East Baton Rouge Parish Public Defender’s Office in December 2011.