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December 24th, 2003 Nick Budnick | News Stories
 

Conflicted Counsel?

Portland criminal-defense lawyer cleared in Maco ethics complaint.

     
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Willamette Week, 12/17/2003
It turns out prosecutors weren't the only lawyers put in a dicey situation by Humberto Castro Soler's transformation from star witness to accused killer ("Swimming with Sharks," WW, Dec. 17, 2003). On Dec. 8 the longtime drug trafficker known as "Maco" agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to murder two people in 1999, after four years of pointing the finger at someone else.

Just six days earlier, the Oregon State Bar concluded a probe of Castro's former attorney, Portland criminal-defense lawyer David Corden, which revealed an intriguing wrinkle in the case.

Corden represented Castro from October 1999 to August 2001, at the time his client was telling cops that a fellow meth-dealer had committed the two murders. The 13-page bar report shows that during that period, two of Corden's other clients, being represented in different cases, were telling people that Castro himself was the killer.

One, Byron Lively, later testified that Corden told him to not speak with prosecutors. Information submitted to the bar claimed Corden then urged the other, Matt Yandell, to steer clear of Lively due to his cooperation with authorities in the murder case. The allegation came from an informant the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office considered "highly credible," who said he was in the room at the time.

Corden calls the allegations "absolutely untrue." He says he didn't realize his clients had knowledge of the murder, nor did he tell anyone not to cooperate with the police. Corden says Lively was about to lose custody of his child and had to explain why he didn't talk to prosecutors about Castro.

The bar called the evidence "significant" but not sufficient and chose not to discipline Corden on the Castro matter. It did, however, issue him a "letter of admonition" on a separate conflict-of-interest matter involving Yandell and Lively.

In any event, Corden says as a result of his run-in with the bar, he will no longer represent meth addicts. "The clients have no direct connection with telling the truth," he says. "Methamphetamine gets them to a survival mode. [When] they get caught, they'll say anything to anybody."

 
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