Defense Attorney Wants Second Chance For Convict

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TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) - Defense attorney, Dennis Hawver, testified Monday at a Shawnee County District Court hearing, that he did not effectively represent Phillip Cheatham during a capital murder case in 2005.

Cheatham was sentenced to death for the December 2003 killings of Annette Roberson and Gloria Jones. He was also found guilty of shooting Annette Thomas 19 times. She survived and named Cheatham and another man, only referred to as Bro, as the gunmen.

After a jury delivered a guilty verdict and death sentence for Cheatham, Hawver said he told Cheatham to appeal. Cheatham claims Hawver was incompetent and didn't follow guidelines. "I was willing to take the blow," Hawver said.

Hawver was questioned Monday morning by Ron Evans, an attorney for Cheatham, and Jacquie Spradling, deputy attorney. Evans' goal was to prove Hawver was incompetent by pointing out what he did not do during the trial. Spradling pointed out what he did do to represent Cheatham accurately at trial.

Cheatham himself asked the judge, Mark Braun, if he could function as part of his defense team so that he could question Hawver. Braun granted the request.

In response to Cheatham's questions about where he was during the murders, Hawver said he thought Cheatham left when Hawver advised him to, and was in Chicago with his brother at the time of the crime. An expert defense attorney brought in to testify at the hearing, said Hawver should have made a bigger effort to get Cheatham's brother to testify in the trial and provide a sound alibi.

Hawver said he believes Cheatham is innocent and that is why he is willing to "tarnish his reputation" as an attorney to get Cheatham off death row.

After Monday's hearings, both sides agreed Judge Braun should hold a new hearing to determine Cheatham's sentencing. However, Spradling said, for the sake of the victims' families, she does not want Braun to order a new trial.

Judge Braun gave the attorneys until January 8, 2010 to submit their briefs. After that, he will make a decision within 30 days.