Prosecutors often highlight the cases where they get convictions, but there are times when it’s defense attorneys who get tout their successes.
Such was the case recently with a felony driving while impaired case in Catawba County.
Hickory attorney Blair Cody said his client, Gary Lester Lawing, 55, had been arrested by Maiden police and charged with felony driving while impaired, driving while license revoked and failing to maintain his lane in January 2021.
Lawing’s case went to court in May. He admitted to the driving while license revoked and failing to maintain his lane charges but contested the DWI charge.
Cody said he felt Lawing had little choice. The offer from District Attorney Scott Reilly’s office was to plead guilty as charged and face up to a year in prison.
Given the less than favorable terms of that deal and their belief that the prosecution’s case had flaws, Cody and Lawing proceeded to trial.
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Lawing was ultimately found not guilty of the DWI following a weeklong trial, Cody said.
He credits the outcome at least in part to a piece of evidence the jury did not review: the chemical analysis performed at the time of the stop.
Cody said he was able to successfully convince Judge Gregory Hayes to keep the results out of trial because, among other reasons, the device used was not properly calibrated.
“They didn’t follow the procedure,” Cody said. “It wasn’t proper and therefore you’re not going to get the result or even the fact that there was a test to be considered by the jury.”
Responding to the outcome of the case, District Attorney Scott Reilly said: “We were disappointed but we respect the judge’s decision. He ruled the blood alcohol results were inadmissible, and without that there wasn’t much case.”
Cody, who has spent more than two decades practicing as an attorney in Catawba County, said Reilly’s office has created an environment where defense attorneys can have constructive dialogue with prosecutors.
In the case of Lawing and others, Cody sees his role as keeping prosecutors and law enforcement honest.
“At the end of the day, if they’ve done their job and did it properly and the facts are there and they’re on their side, then your client, the defendant, may get convicted, likely will and probably should if that’s the case,” Cody said. “If they don’t do something properly and they don’t do their job, then I think there has to be accountability for that.”
Kevin Griffin is the City of Hickory reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.
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