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Have You Ever Felt Threatened by a Client?

Minnesota criminal defense attorney Joe Friedberg shares a time when he had an unruly client.

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No. I got attacked by a mentally ill person in a conference room one time, but, no, I’ve never felt threatened by my own – I had three pretty bad guys being held in detention to be extradited on a death penalty case to California, and one of ’em called me and said, “Joe, we got a guy in the cell block here that just has no idea where he is. He’s been shipped up here from the state hospital. He hasn’t been to court. He’s been here 30 days. He’s not getting medication. He’s incontinent, and he shouldn’t be in here, and it’s a problem having him in here. Would you come up and see him?”

So I went up to see him, and they’d forgotten him. I don’t know how it happened. And, ultimately, I checked through jail administration, found out that his crime had been committed seven or eight years ago, that he’d been held incompetent to proceed to trial at St. Peter for those years, that at some point people at St. Peter had determined that he was competent to proceed to trial, had shipped him up to Hennepin County. Somehow his medication didn’t come with him.

He really didn’t know who he was or where he was or anything, and when I started to question him, because I wanted to help him, I was in a room with him, he went kind of berserk and – but I got it done eventually. I got him back on his medication. I got him down to court, got him found not guilty by reason of mental illness, went back to St. Peter. Ultimately, a number of years later he was released.

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