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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

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Jury selection delayed in Farren attempted murder case

Updated 12:57 pm, Friday, May 30, 2014
  • FILE – John Michael Farren, 57, of New Canaan, during his arraignment on charges of attempted murder and strangulation. Photo: File Photo / Stamford Advocate File Photo
    FILE – John Michael Farren, 57, of New Canaan, during his arraignment on charges of attempted murder and strangulation. Photo: File Photo

 

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The long-delayed trial of the former White House lawyer charged with trying to kill his wife in 2010 in their New Canaan mansion was pushed back again this week as the defendant argued for more time to prepare his defense.

In a court hearing that ranged from the vagaries of modern justice to Scripture, former Bush White House attorney J. Michael Farren was granted additional time as the court awaits a June 5 ruling from the state Appellate Court on a motion requesting he be allowed to present a mental-defect defense.

In April, state Superior Court Judge Richard Comerford ruled the state had a right to have its own psychiatrist examine Farren so a mental-state defense could be contested at trial.

But when he met with the doctor, Farren refused to sign a routine waiver and was not examined.

On May 1, Comerford ruled that because of Farren's failure to have the examination, he would not allow Farren to claim a mental defect at the time of the Jan. 6, 2010, assault on his wife, Mary Margaret Farren. Police said he beat her nearly to death with a metal flashlight two days after she demanded a divorce.

Both appeals were dismissed by the state Appellate Court on May 21, but Farren was given a 20-day stay to file further appeals with the state Supreme Court.

While acknowledging his defense was severely weakened without being able to claim a mental defect, Farren also said he appealed the judge's decisions because he had no other avenue to correct a huge infringement on his right to defend himself.

A day prior, Farren told the judge he would give up his appeals if Comerford would reverse himself and allow him another chance to take the exam.

But Comerford refused, saying, "What I have written, I have written," which is a biblical quotation.

On the second day of the hearing, Farren said the judge "oddly" quoted Pontius Pilate.

"What I have written, I have written. Quod scripsi, scripsi," said Farren, adding the Latin translation for the phrase. Farren explained the quote arose after the rabbi's objected to the sign Pilate had put on the cross below Jesus at his crucifixion calling him king of the Jews.

When Farren said the rabbis wanted Pilate to change the sign to say that he only "claimed" to be king of the Jews, Comerford in Latin interjected, "I.N.R.I, Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm, that was the sign."

Farren went on to say that historians believe that Pilate's refusal to change the sign demonstrated the hubris of Roman rule and the arbitrary and capricious power of the Romans to persecute the Jews and refuse direction from the Jewish high priests.

Immediately seeing the parallel Farren was exploring, Comerford leaned far forward and said that was certainly not his intention.

Farren then responded he was only trying to provide context for the quote.

"I appreciate the education," Comerford shot back.

"Pontius Pilate is not someone we want to emulate, your honor and I would ask you to reconsider your decision of May 1 and preserve my right to an affirmative defense of altered mental status," Farren said.

Stamford State's Attorney David Cohen said Farren's arguments and appeals were only serving to delay the trial because he was not giving up any of his rights to defend himself in the case.

"The point here is that if this case went to trial and in the event that the verdict would be in the favor of the state, the defendant would have his rights to appeal any of the rulings at the end of the case and in the normal course of business to appeal to the Appellate Court and the Supreme Court and to bring up all these issues he is raising," Cohen said.

Cohen said both Appellate Court appeals were denied out of hand because they did not come close to court standards.

"He is claiming he is waiving his rights, but no, no. His rights are not being waived ... None of them are waived. He is simply filing these appeals to further delay, further work, and to present frivolous things that our Appellate Court has summarily denied and dismissed," Cohen said.

"This is not some extraordinary thing that I'm doing," Farren said in response. "This is entirely provided for by the practice book.

"If I was representing a party and I did not do this, this would be malpractice for me not to proceed with this. ... Would I allow a defendant to go to trial without a defense, without exhausting every right in the practice book? Under no circumstances. There is no purpose of delay here, I am completely following the practice book. A draconian decision was made on May 1, for any defendant, represented or not represented. It was a Chernobyl event and I'm not supposed to go and seek correction of that prior to trial?"

At the end of the hearing, Comerford said Farren was trying to hold up the trial, which is scheduled to begin on June 21. Jury selection was to begin on Tuesday, but is on hold for the Appellate Court decision.

"We will never get this case tried if we leave the case in your hands," Comerford said. "It is as simple as that. The people have left this case in my hands and we are going."