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Lawyer Can't Defend Criminal and Victim's Dad

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on December 21, 2011 8:50 AM

You can't always get what you want -- or who you want to represent you in a criminal trial. Such is the case for Miguel Hernandez Jr., an Illinois gang member accused of killing 5-year-old Eric Galarza during a drive-by shooting.

Hernandez hired criminal defense attorney Liam Dixon. But Dixon represented the boy's father, Eric Galarza Sr., 10 years ago in a different gang-related shooting. He may have also been the intended target.

After learning of this connection, the judge disqualified Dixon, ordering the appointment of a public defender.

The judge did this because the representation presented a conflict of interest. Even though the elder Galarza is no longer Dixon's client, Dixon still has an ethical duty to safeguard any prior confidential communications.

Attorneys are forbidden from using confidential information to the disadvantage of a former client. If this restriction materially limits the attorney's ability to represent the new client, he may not do so.

Liam Dixon knows a significant amount about the elder Galarza's criminal history and gang affiliations, reports the Beacon-News. Such information would be useful during cross-examination and to discredit him as a witness.

But Dixon cannot disclose that information, and he may unintentionally use it. For these reasons, the judge ruled that Dixon could not represent Miguel Hernandez Jr.

Oddly enough, local public defenders can't represent him either, explains the Beacon-News. Eric Galarza Sr. is a current client of public defender Rachael Baker in a separate case involving aggravated battery. Because the other public defenders have seen related video, they are also disqualified

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