In November, according to media reports, former assistant district attorney Mark F. Morrison was wheeled into a Fayette County courtroom on a gurney -- wearing a surgical mask -- for his competency hearing.
Defense counsel Bruce Manchester reportedly told the court that Mr. Morrison, who has been charged by the state Attorney General's Office with bilking two of his clients out of more than $99,000 in a mortgage refinancing scheme, was suffering from a severe bacterial infection. Mr. Manchester also said his client was not competent to stand trial because of mental illness, according to court papers.
But on Dec. 9, Fayette County Common Pleas Judge Steven P. Leskinen found Mr. Morrison fit to stand trial and set the trial date for Jan. 3, 2011. Several media outlets reported the story, dubbing it the "attorney on a gurney" case and focusing on the fact that two expert psychiatrists testified during the competency hearing that they were unable to rule out the possibility that Mr. Morrison was faking mental illness. (The case's nickname is a misnomer because Mr. Morrison voluntarily resigned from the bar in 2006.)
In its answer to Mr. Morrison's competency motion, the state alleged he was "engaged in deceitfulness and malingering relative to his cognitive abilities."
But was coming to court on a gurney mere theatrics?
Several defense attorneys across the state said that if Mr. Morrison and his lawyer, of Manchester & Associates in Bellefonte, Centre County, were trying to pull off an elaborate stall tactic, it was an ill-advised one at best.
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Attorney on a Gurney Strategy Usualy a Loser