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Judge orders new lawyer for Brooks

Cites Supreme Court decision in ruling that defendant in shooting case must accept public defender

A man charged in a downtown Spokane shooting spree must use a court-appointed attorney at his upcoming trial, a judge decided Tuesday.

Lamont A. Brooks, 19, cannot continue using private defense attorney Brad Plumb when he stands trial in July on seven counts of attempted first-degree murder, Superior Court Judge Robert Austin ruled.

Austin declared a mistrial a week ago during the first trial on the charges. At that point, three witnesses had testified.

After Plumb moved for the mistrial, citing a blunder in his opening statement, the judge called him incompetent.

In court Tuesday, Austin urged Brooks to accept the appointment of a public defender. In that arrangement, Plumb could work as liaison between Brooks and the appointed attorney.

But Brooks rejected that option, telling Austin, “I feel comfortable with (Brad). I don’t trust anyone else.”

Austin then told Brooks there would be no choice. In the next trial, Brooks would only have one attorney, and it would not be Plumb.

Brooks is accused of firing more than 20 bullets at three cars in the drive-through lane of the Jack in the Box at Third and Stevens around midnight on Dec. 19.

Prosecutors say an argument erupted in the parking lot between Brooks and a man in another car. They say Brooks shot several times at the man, then fired into cars in the drive-through lane.

Brooks, who has pleaded not guilty, insists he wasn’t there that night. He claims he’s been unfairly targeted by authorities who have identified him as a gang member.

The next trial is scheduled to start July 12.

Austin based his decision requiring Brooks to accept a public defender on a U.S. Supreme Court case. Justices held that although defendants have the right to select their own counsel, the trial court has a higher duty.

Citing the 1988 ruling in United States vs. Wheat, Austin said a judge can replace a private attorney selected by a defendant to guarantee a fair trial, Austin said.

After Tuesday’s ruling, Plumb said Austin is biased against him.

“The judge has lost track of the key issue, which is what Lamont Brooks needs and wants. This was a case where I was on trial as well,” Plumb said.

He said Brooks is worried that a public defender won’t be able to go to trial in July.

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