Lawyer who shot driver during BLM protest suspended from profession
Colorado attorney James Edward Marshall IV shot truck driver Danny Pruitt in the head during a protest over the killing of George Floyd in June 2020. Pruitt survived the incident, but suffered a severe traumatic brain injury resulting in permanent damage.
Marshall said at the time of his arrest that he feared for his wife’s life, as 9News describes:
Just before 6 p.m. on June 4, 2020, an affidavit of arrest indicates that Pruitt was stopped at a red light near the intersection of Main Street and State Avenue in Alamosa.
At the same time, many protesters, including Marshall and his wife, were at the intersection, the affidavit states. Marshall’s law office is near the scene of the protest, but he told investigators he had planned to attend the event.
Surveillance video from a nearby store shows Pruitt advancing his vehicle through the crowd of protesters who split to avoid being hit, the affidavit says.
The affidavit says the video also shows Marshall reaching for his belt, pulling out an object police believe to be a handgun, and pointing it at the truck. Marshall and his wife are then seen running away.
Police say surveillance footage shows Marshall’s wife behind Pruitt’s truck, not in front, when Marshall fired his gun.
Marshall was originally charged with attempted second-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon, second-degree assault causing grievous bodily harm and reckless endangerment, but, in a controversial move, the charges were dropped. reduced to tampering with a deceased human body in a plea. deal.
Matthew Beresky, a Rocky Mountain Victim Rights Center attorney representing the victim, condemned the agreement saying that it “offends the very concept of justice and does not reflect the nature of the crime or its effects”, and that “allowing James Marshall’s plea of guilty to abuse of a corpse ignores the fact that Mr. Pruitt is a living human being.
Nevertheless, in December, Marshall was sentenced to 11 years in prison, one year less than the maximum sentence. Judge Gilbert Martinez said of the sentence: “This is a case where a good man did a very bad thing. Is there an excessive risk that the accused will again commit a crime? No. But would a minimum sentence unduly diminish the seriousness of the crime and respect for the law? Yes, it would.
The judge also noted that by the time Marshall fired his gun, his wife was already behind the truck and no one was in front of Pruitt’s vehicle, saying, “The fact is that he fired through a truck, through the rear window, while his wife was standing in the back of the vehicle. If there was any danger, it certainly seemed as if that danger had already passed.
And Marshall apologized to the victim, his community and the court, noting, “I recognize the incredible irony of protesting unlawful violence against a man and engaging in unlawful violence against a man.”
Now the Colorado Supreme Court has disciplined Marshall and suspended him from practice for three years. They concluded that Marshall violated the rules of professional liability which state that it is “professional misconduct for a lawyer to commit an indictable offense which affects the honesty, reliability or fitness of the lawyer in other respects”.
Of course, Marshall will likely be jailed for the duration of the suspension. Although he was sentenced to 11 years, he did not plead to a crime of violence. (I told you the plea deal was controversial.) As a result, it’s likely his sentence will be reduced by 50% and he could be released sooner than that for good behavior.
Kathryn Rubino is an editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL’s tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).