Swayngim's lawyer withdraws from case

By DeeAnna Haney | Jul 07, 2014

The lawyer of a man accused of beating his 4-year-old son to death in August 2012 has withdrawn from the capital case.

Michael Swayngim, 26, is charged with first-degree murder of his son, Jake Russell, whose autopsy revealed he died from blunt force trauma to the head caused by at least two traumatic brain injuries.

John T. Barrett, a public defender from Sylva who has been his court appointed attorney from the beginning, made the request in Haywood County superior court Thursday afternoon. He did not elaborate except for citing "irreconcilable conflict" with his client.

When addressed by the judge, Swayngim said he had nothing further to add.

Swayngim was charged in August 2012 and was indicted on the charges in January 2013. In May 2013, prosecutors announced they were seeking the death penalty. At that point, attorney Jack Stuart was appointed to assist in the case.

In light of the change in representation, Stuart made a motion to continue Swayngim's tentative trial date in September, saying the new appointed attorney would not have enough time to be properly brought up to speed on the case.

Assistant District Attorneys Rachael Groffsky and Jeff Jones did not object to the request, though Jones said, "Mr. Barrett has always been terrific to work with and we hate to see him leave this case."

Swayngim and Barrett amiably shook hands before Barrett took his leave.

Resident Superior Court Judge Brad Letts said the newly appointed counsel would likely be announced within the week.

Swayngim is scheduled to appear on the administrative superior court docket Sept. 8, at which time lawyers will begin new discussions about the case and setting a new trial date.

His wife, Julia Swayngim is due in court the same week. She was charged in June 2013 with aiding and abetting possession of a firearm by a felon, aiding and abetting felony child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury and two counts accessory after the fact.



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