JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — On Wednesday, the attorney for the Sullivan County woman accused of killing her 15-month-old daughter filed a motion asking the court to let him withdraw as her counsel. On Friday, that motion is set to be heard in Megan Boswell’s case.
Requests for withdrawal
According to defense attorney Don E. Spurrell, there are several reasons a lawyer can request to be removed as counsel, including mandatory and permissive withdrawal.
Spurrell said situations in which mandatory withdrawal would be requested are if a client informs their counsel that they are going to commit a crime, perjure themselves on the witness stand or if the client fires their counsel.
Permissive withdrawal would be requested if the lawyer claims the relationship between counsel and client reaches a point where the lawyer believes communication between the two will impact their ability to provide effective counsel.
The latter is the case in regards to Megan Boswell and her attorney, Brad Sproles. In Sproles’ filed motion, he described the relationship between them as “not salvageable.”
Judges may request additional information in the case of permissive withdrawal, said Spurrell, but he said often if a lawyer is in good standing with the court, the motion will be granted.
The judge will also take into consideration how far along the case has progressed before granting the motion.
“How complicated is the case? How much discovery has been done? How much motion practice has been done? Have witnesses been subpoenaed? Is it set for trial? Yes, those are all considerations that are going to certainly make a judge uneasy about letting counsel out of a case,” Spurrell said.
There are conditions under which a judge may deny the request, such as if the judge believes the defendant is trying to “play with the court,” said Spurrell.
The judge could also decide to grant the motion, but not appoint another attorney. Spurrell said then the current lawyer would be kept on as “elbow counsel” to provide advice if the defendant were to ask for it. However, Spurrell said judges are often reluctant to go that course.
Moving forward if the motion granted
Spurrell said it is not unusual for new attorneys to step into cases, whether due to a defendant’s request or a motion to withdraw. At that time, the attorney will need to get up to speed with the case. Catching up can include reviewing transcripts, the previous lawyer’s notes and potential recordings.
It is unlikely hearings would be repeated, and often deadlines for motions and discovery will have passed. Although, the new counsel may request leeway to file motions if they feel prior counsel did not raise important issues.
“As far as redo, just to be a redo, no,” said Spurrell. “You don’t get to redo because you’re going to have a transcript of everything that happened and courts rely on transcripts of testimony.”
Sproles requested to stay on the case temporarily in a pro bono status in order to help Boswell’s new attorney with the transfer and organization of case materials.
The most likely reason a trial would be delayed for a change of counsel, in this case, would be due to a new lawyer’s availability.
“The only problem is that most experienced attorneys who are going to be appointed to represent this woman will have a busy schedule already,” said Spurrell. “So we’ve got limit, we’re like judges, to some extent, they’re looking for trial dates, and so are we.”
In September, Judge Jim Goodwin denied Boswell’s request for new counsel.
Boswell is facing felony murder and other charges related to the death of her daughter Evelyn Boswell, whose remains were found on a family member’s property in March 2020.
A hearing is scheduled for Friday, October 21 in Sullivan County Criminal Court to consider Sproles’ motion.
For complete coverage of Megan Boswell’s case, click here.