The drug trial of an Iowa man suffering terminal cancer that was supposed to begin Monday was postponed so the defendant can get a new attorney.
Benton Mackenzie appeared in a Scott County courtroom Friday afternoon for a hearing with Judge Henry Latham after learning that the law license of his attorney, Lori Kieffer-Garrison, had been suspended.
"I put all my trust in her," Mackenzie said.
The 48-year-old, who is diagnosed with angiosarcoma, appeared in the courtroom in a wheelchair.
Rebecca Ruggero, an attorney representing Loretta Mackenzie, who is charged in a marijuana growing conspiracy with her husband, urged the judge not to wait too long to schedule the trial.
"We're looking for the shortest possible continuance because of Benton's failing health," she said. "I want Mr. Mackenzie to have his day in court."
Mackenzie has maintained since his arrest last summer that he grew marijuana to treat his cancer. He also says his wife took no part in the growing operation and assisted him only as his caretaker.
Latham will wait to schedule the trial until a new attorney can be appointed to represent Mackenzie.
"You sit here on the eve of trial without an attorney," Latham said. "My job is to correct this."
The license of Kieffer-Garrison, 52, of Rock Island, was suspended for six months, the Iowa Supreme Court announced Friday. The Supreme Court disciplinary board charged her with multiple violations of the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct.
Among the violations are that she repeatedly missed appellate deadlines in several criminal cases, received 20 default notices as a result of missed deadlines, failed to pay resulting penalties in a timely fashion over two years and allegedly made a knowingly false statement to the court, the Supreme Court complaint states.
The complaint states in 2011 she failed to timely file an application for further review for her client, Anthony McGee, in his postconviction relief appeal and falsely told the court she had.
A jury found McGee guilty in 2004 of third-degree sexual abuse and false imprisonment, and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. His application for postconviction relief was denied.
Kieffer-Garrison couldn't be reached Friday for comment.
She was first licensed to practice law in Iowa in 2002 and has represented clients in more than 150 criminal cases, including felony cases.
Sitting in the back of the courtroom at Mackenzie's hearing, Davenport attorney Murray Bell said Kieffer-Garrison called him Friday to represent Mackenzie.
"Now that the court's made the wrong decision on the motion for defense, I'd really like to get involved," Bell told Latham, referring to Latham's ruling this week preventing Mackenzie's medical necessity defense.