The Journal Gazette
Saturday, January 27, 2018 1:00 am

Lawyer pulled from murder case

Gull says Nakos unqualified for death penalty defense

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

An Allen County judge Friday removed a defense attorney from a death penalty case, arguing he is not qualified to handle capital murder cases.

Nikos Nakos represented Marcus Dansby, who is charged with killing four people – including his unborn child – in a home on Holton Avenue in September 2016.

Superior Court Judge Fran Gull ordered Nakos off the case, saying he has not completed specialized training for lawyers handling death penalty cases. She also said Nakos is overburdened with a workload that includes dozens of other open cases in state and federal court.

Nakos said after the hearing the training Gull cited applies only to court-appointed defense attorneys. He said he is qualified to defend Dansby.

He filed paperwork Friday asking the judge to recuse herself, saying in court documents Gull violated judicial conduct rules and treated Dansby unfairly.

The claim is based in part on instances in which Nakos alleges that Gull rolled her eyes in court hearings in June and January of 2017, said “he argues a bunch of stupid stuff” before a hearing in July, and caused the resignation of an expert who had been hired to assist Dansby's defense team.

Nakos contends the judge also stopped him from adding Steven Godfrey – an Allen County deputy prosecutor working on the case – to a list of witnesses who could testify in a trial. Godfrey talked with Dansby for an earlier, unrelated case, court documents say.

Dansby “has not been treated fairly and impartially by the Honorable Frances Gull,” the nine-page petition to recuse the judge states.

Nakos filed a similar petition, which was denied, in June.

Dansby was charged in September 2016 with killing Traeven Harris, 18, Consuela Arrington, 37, Dajahiona Arrington, 18, and her unborn child, which was later determined to be his. Trinity Hairston suffered gunshot and stab wounds but survived.

Dajahiona Arrington was 81/2 months pregnant and was shot in the head, a probable cause affidavit states.

Prosecutors filed paperwork in January 2017 to seek the death penalty.

Gull said in court Friday that Nakos had done little work to conduct depositions in the case and has been unprepared. She said he is handling more than 20 civil and criminal cases in state court and some in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne.

Guidelines from the American Bar Association for defense attorneys in death penalty cases call for lawyers to “implement effectual mechanisms to ensure that the workload ... is maintained at a level that enables counsel to provide each client with high-quality representation.”

Prosecutors, who state in court documents they are ready to move forward with a trial, said Friday they had similar concerns about Nakos.

“We appreciate the court's ruling today,” said Michael McAlexander, chief deputy prosecutor.

Public defenders could be appointed to replace Nakos in a hearing Feb. 2. A trial date is set for Feb. 21, though it's likely that will be pushed back.

Nakos said he would not be ready for trial until next year.

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