Lawyer: Juror charged with perjury will accept plea

Monday, December 3, 2012

EDITOR'S NOTE: The spelling of Pat McMenamin's name has been corrected.

Pat McMenamin doesn't believe Verndist Poindexter did anything wrong. But the Cape Girardeau lawyer doesn't believe his client has any real choice but to say that he did.

Poindexter, the Cape Girardeau juror charged with perjury for comments that resulted in a mistrial in January, has accepted a deal that calls for him to plead guilty to a misdemeanor misconduct charge in exchange for the dismissal of the felony, McMenamin said Sunday.

And though McMineman knows it's the best thing for his client, it's still a bitter pill for him to swallow.

"It leaves an extremely bad taste in my mouth," McMenamin said. "I'm pretty sure that every other attorney in this town takes a pretty dim view of the prosecution of Mr. Poindexter."

Poindexter, 45, of Cape Girardeau still technically faces the charge that, if he's convicted, could land him in prison for up to four years. That's why McMenamin advised Poindexter to plead to the misdemeanor and pay a fine.

"It's a myth that we don't tell clients who aren't guilty to plead guilty," McMenamin said. "It's easy for me to be self-righteous, but I'm not the one facing the felony. So of course he's taking the deal."

Nearly 10 months later, the second trial of Charles Anthony Robinson is set to take place on Wednesday, though his charges were amended by assistant prosecutor Jack Koester from trafficking in crack cocaine to a simple possession charge. Koester declined to comment citing a pending case, as did Robinson's attorney, Steve Wilson.

Poindexter's trial was set to take place next month. But McMenamin said it won't make it that far, though he would like for it to take place on principle alone. McMenamin said the charges were the work of former Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle, who recently left office midterm after taking a position with the U.S. attorney's office.

While McMenamin said he was a fan of Swingle as a prosecutor, this was one of his rare blind spots. Swingle was convinced, McMenamin said, that Poindexter was conspiring to sabotage the case. In his last few days in office, he made an offer to Poindexter through his lawyer, giving him 48 hours to take a conviction or be ready for trial.

Angel Woodruff, McMenamin said, upped the ante and said a special prosecutor would be brought in to handle the case because their office has a conflict. Special prosecutors, McMenamin said, tend to have something to prove -- all the more reason to take the plea offer.

But McMenamin doesn't argue that his client didn't have a bias against police, several of whom testified at Robinson's first trial.

Poindexter was the only African-American member of the jury, McMenamin said while noting the other 11 began attacking Poindexter when he expressed the view that he did not automatically take the word of police.

Maybe his client did say he had a bias against police, McMenamin said.

"Driving while black is a real thing," McMenamin said. "What African American in this country doesn't have a bias against police?"

Poindexter was only being honest about his attitude toward law enforcement, McMenamin said. One juror described Poindexter at the preliminary hearing, McMenamin said, as being thoughtful when they asked if he was prejudiced against police.

"Maybe I am," Poindexter said. "But I got reason to be."

One of several defenses McMenamin was preparing was that Poindexter only realized as he sat in that jury room that he had such a bias.

McMenamin also worried about the kind of message the case against Poindexter would send to other potential jurors.

"It is a peculiar precedent," McMenamin said. "It sends a message to black people that they already know -- no good can come of this."

smoyers@semissourian.com

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