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Commonwealth of Virginia v. Dorian G. Lester :
Dorian Lester's trial address to Judge Swett

Thus Always to Tyrants?

[the following is an unedited excerpt from the official trial transcript, 15 April 1998]

THE COURT Before recess, Iím told, Mr. Lester, that you want to address the Court.


Your Honor, I want to make a statement, and please excuse me for using my prepared notes.

Your Honor, I understand that the sixth amendment guarantees me, as a defendant, the right to confront my accuser with all relevant evidence to help defend myself. My counsel have ignored and not brought out important evidence relating to my defense, rendering my defense incomplete and inaccurate. My co-defendant and her counsel are aware of these facts, and my three court-appointed attorneys are aware of them as well. They have refused witnesses on my behalf, and refused to question others on the stand. They have chosen to pursue only limited facts regarding my case, and again, leaving my defense incomplete. They had assured me after the arraignment that all information would be presented, so I painfully waited until completion to speak. I am neither disenchanted nor in conflict with my attorneys personally, but rather point to my sixth amendment right and the undeniable fact that evidence has been ignored.

I hereby respectfully request a mistrial be declared, a continuance of these proceedings be granted, and the opportunity afforded me to obtain counsel of my choosing as to present a complete and more accurate defense.


Counsel want to be heard on the matter? Counsel for Mr. Lester?


May we have a minute, Your Honor? We hadn't expected to...


Well, you don't have to be heard. I just want to give you an opportunity if you want to take it.


If we do, we'll ask to address the Court appropriately.


Well, let me comment to Mr. Lester this way...

If the file correctly reflects the history of the case, you've had counsel in the case since shortly after your arrest on October the 1st. There's been no indication in the case, at least in the file, that you've requested any other counsel other than court-appointed counsel.

There was an issue raised early in the case with regard to one of the two court-appointed attorneys. Based on that, I chose to appoint a third attorney, and from that point on - in fact, I believe there was a hearing at which I asked you whether there was any more problem with counsel, and I believe that you said there was not. You proceeded with court-appointed counsel.

Court-appointed counsel, as they're obligated to do, have submitted to me their bills for services rendered, so I've had a chance to look at the extent and the scope and the breadth and the depth at which they've attempted to - in fact, have done - what I think is a very capable job of presenting a defense for you.

Essentially your request comes on the eve of trial, for the first time, without any concrete matters presented to the Court. I have looked hard...


Your Honor...


Let me finish. I've looked hard and long as to whether or not there are any motions that are glaring that should have been filed that have not been filed. I find none. I don't find anything presented to me of a concrete nature that would warrant a finding that any one of these three attorneys have not done their darndest and their very best to present a defense for you. And, in my judgment, you have been afforded a fair trial.

Under our law we do not guarantee everyone a perfect trial. We guarantee a person a fair trial. In my judgment, based on everything that I've heard and seen to date, court-appointed counsel have represented you ably, and very satisfactorily, and I do not find anything that would justify in this case granting a mistrial or granting a continuance.

You want to add anything else?


You'll recall that before the trial began, I raised a protest, and again at arraignment, I protested based on my attorney and what I knew their defense strategy to be, and their - the fact that they chose to ignore certain relevant evidence in the case. They haven't spoken to me since regarding strategies. I didn't know who my witnesses were that they were going to have called - defense witnesses - until yesterday. It was inappropriate for me to lodge a complaint at that time; in fact, I made it known to them that I wished to. It's only been since the defense has been able to rest that I've been able to lodge a complaint.


Nothing you said changes my view. Again, you've had counsel in this case for almost five months. When this case was set for trial originally in March, it was you and counsel who objected to the continuance and wanted to go forward the very next week. No issue was raised then about the case not being in a position where you felt comfortable with the quality of the defense. It was only after the continuance was granted and some three or four days before the rescheduled second trial that this issue was raised, and then I gave you a specific opportunity on the record, in fact, I believe I gave it out of the presence of Commonwealth's counsel so that you were free to say whatever you wanted to say about specifics without jeopardizing the relationship, and you said nothing then about anything specific that they had failed to do.


Your Honor, incomplete information jeopardizes my chance for a fair trial. It jeopardizes the accuracy of the entire trial. I didn't feel it was appropriate to tell you every piece of pertinent information that I expected to come out, only that the picture of my defense is inaccurate and incomplete.


Well, again, I understand your position. I simply disagree with it.

I deny a motion for continuance. I deny a motion for mistrial, and note your objection.

We'll recess for lunch. Come back at 20 minutes to the hour for instructions...

Links to further background and details of this astonishing story:

The Dorian Lester Fund - main page

Personal and professional background
(how to get indicted)

The Hillary Clinton connection

Political boudoir

Trial and court appointed (mis)representation
A brief aperçu

Dorian's trial address to Judge Swett

Post-trial injustice

Access to Justice home