Attorney complains about lawyers ‘jaw-jacking’ outside courtroom
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent January 5, 2012 3:40PM
Updated: February 7, 2012 8:23AM
The attorney representing an East Chicago man whose first trial on rape and other charges ended in mistrial asked the judge to ban deputy prosecutors from gathering outside the judge’s chambers and sipping coffee.
Defense attorney Jerry Peteet, who recently was appointed to represent Thaddeus Luis Rodriguez, 21, at his Feb. 6 jury trial, said he wasn’t accusing anyone of wrongdoing but felt it looked bad with attorneys gathering outside the judge’s chambers. Peteet made the request verbally but said he planned to follow up in writing with what he called a “motion to remove the appearance of impropriety.”
Lake Superior Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. said defense attorneys are welcome to partake in coffee and do socialize with court staff in the back hallway and near his office.
“We happen to have the reputation of having the best coffee in the courthouse and it’s free,” Stefaniak said.
Deputy prosecutor Michelle Jatkiewicz is seeking Rodriguez’s medical records after he was punched in the face by Hiram Joel Perez-Diaz, who also is charged in the case and has agreed to testify against Rodriguez.
She said Peteet’s request makes a mockery of the process. “He is mocking the court and this system,” she said.
Stefaniak asked Peteet whether his request meant that because defense attorneys and deputy prosecutors like to socialize with court staff that the judge’s rulings would be affected. The judge said attorneys gather informally but do not discuss specific cases or defendants.
Peteet said he wasn’t involved in the “jaw-jacking” in the back hallway by the judge’s office and chambers and said he comes to court relying on his “abilities and not looking for favor.”
The judge noted that Peteet has engaged in social conversations before court begins, but Peteet said that was different. “I’m sitting in your courtroom in the open, not back there jaw-jacking,” Peteet said.
After Peteet’s request was granted, someone wrote the word “jaw-jacking” on a piece of paper, drew a circle with a line through it and posted it outside the judge’s office.
Stefaniak granted the request while Rodriguez’s trial is under way.
Rodriguez’s earlier trial ended in mistrial after the incident with Perez-Diaz. Rodriguez said Thursday he underwent one surgery and needs a second surgery. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of rape, criminal deviate conduct, robbery, confinement, battery, strangulation and intimidation in an incident reported June 12 at the Motel 6 in Hammond.