Last week, Dwight Luton was arrested for First Degree Murder for allegedly shooting and killing his wife. From media reports, it appears at least one of the offenses was captured on video and Mr. Luton also made some statements that may come back to haunt him.
If I were hired to represent Dwight Luton, I would start by spending a lot of time with him. He is in a lot of trouble and it is important that his lawyer develops a relationship with him that centers around trust. That trust can only be built with time and effort. The first weeks of representation would consist mostly of attorney-client visits in an attempt to build this trust.
Mr. Luton is probably very concerned about getting released from jail on a bond. While the judge has the discretion to give Mr. Luton a bond, it is extremely unlikely he will be released pending trial. It appears from media reports the evidence against him is strong and no judge is going to take the chance that he would hurt someone else if released. I would likely advise Mr. Luton that our time is better spent on other things, at least for now.
Mr. Luton is charged with First Degree Murder, among other things. That means, if convicted, he is facing only two possible sentences: life or death. It is not clear at this point whether the state will seek the death penalty in this case. His attorney should assume they will seek and act accordingly. This means that in addition to preparing for trial, his lawyer must also prepare for sentencing. Usually, that prep takes precedent over trial prep. Saving Mr. Luton’s life will be the most important part of the defense.
His lawyer will likely work with a mitigation specialist to gather as much information as possible about him and his life. While much of this information won’t be useful, the lawyer must leave no stone unturned to make sure the very best argument against the death penalty is made.
Preparing for sentencing will, at a minimum, include collecting school, medical and mental health records, interviewing family and friends, and hiring doctors to evaluate Mr. Luton. His lawyer needs a complete picture of his life leading up to his arrest to present a compelling case for life to the jury.
The preparation to try this case will take between 18 months and 2 years, on average. If the state waives the death penalty as a possible penalty, the prep will take less time.
Mr. Luton’s case will not be an easy one to defend. In addition to the general difficulty of defending someone charged with murder, this case also has already had media attention. The victim’s family has been very vocal as well. They are understandably upset and emotional. In one video I recently saw, they appeared to be threatening and insulting a public defender who represented Mr. Luton at his initial court appearance. Appropriate or not, Mr. Luton’s attorney will have to handle this delicately.
Regardless of the accusations and the evidence purportedly against him, Mr. Luton has the right to a zealous defense. I hope he gets one.