Georgia lawyer held in contempt for missing court over stroke

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A Georgia attorney has been held in contempt of court after he didn’t appear for a client’s trial — even though he told the judge that he was hospitalized while recovering from a stroke.

Matthew Tucker, of Clayton County, was scheduled to begin jury selection for his client, Hannah Payne, on Monday, Nov. 14, Channel 2 reported. Payne, 24, faces murder charges stemming from a fatal shooting following a hit-and-run in 2019.

Monday’s televised proceedings were delayed, however, after Tucker suffered a stroke over the weekend and was hospitalized. Judge Shana Rooks Malone was irritated by Tucker’s failure to appear, and told Payne that she was holding her attorney in contempt due to his “behavior.”

“I cannot go forward with the trial today because Ms. Payne is not represented, but what I will tell you, Ms. Payne, is you need to seriously seek new counsel,” Malone said.

Malone expressed doubts that Tucker actually suffered a medical emergency, citing an alleged history of absences.

“This is not the first time I’ve had an issue with him failing to come and come on time,” the judge said. “He’s doing you a disservice because you’ve been here. You have a right to counsel who is going to be diligently representing and advocating on you zealously, and he has not been doing that.”

Matt Tucker
Tucker said his office told the court prior to Monday’s hearing.
YouTube/WSB-TV
Judge Shana Rooks Malone held Tucker in contempt of court.
Judge Shana Rooks Malone held Tucker in contempt of court.
YouTube/WSB-TV

Speaking to Channel 2’s Tom Jones on Thursday, Tucker, who remains hospitalized, said he was “astonished” by Malone’s statements in front of both his client and those watching the proceedings at home.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “She kind of made me look real bad on TV.”

Tucker claims his office emailed the court about his medical situation prior to Monday’s scheduled appearance, and that Payne also relayed the information to the judge in court.

“I’ve never lied to the court,” Tucker told Jones. “I’m an officer of the court. It is not a disservice. We’ve been waiting on this trial for three years.”

Tucker has represented Payne since shortly after May 7, 2019, when she shot and killed Kenneth Herring, 62, in what she claims was self-defense while trying to make a citizen’s arrest after the man ran a red light and collided with a truck. He is now concerned she will not receive a fair trial, and is considering filing to remove Malone from the case.

Malone’s office did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for a comment on the incident.

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