THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

3d lawyer begs off tree-poisoning case

Associated Press / February 23, 2011

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AUBURN, Ala. — Getting a lawyer in Auburn to represent the man charged with poisoning the Toomer’s Corner oak trees has proved to be difficult.

Montgomery’s Jerry Blevins became the latest attorney seeking to withdraw, citing an “irreconcilable conflict’’ between himself and defendant Harvey Updyke Jr. Blevins said he had been retained by Updyke but declined to elaborate on why he no longer wanted to represent him.

Two court-appointed attorneys have already been allowed to withdraw from the case.

Blevins replaced Jerry Hauser, who withdrew because of a potential conflict of interest.

His wife, Margaret Fitch-Hauser, is chair of Auburn’s department of communication and journalism.

Judge Russell Bush had appointed Hauser on Friday after Philip Tyler was allowed to withdraw. Tyler, who also had been appointed by the judge, also cited conflicts, including his former job as an assistant professor at the university.

John Carroll, dean of the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, said although such recusals are not uncommon, this seems “more than the normal number of folks that have conflicts.’’

Updyke has been charged with first-degree criminal mischief and is out on bond for allegedly poisoning the trees at the site of decades of celebrations after Auburn athletic victories.

Meanwhile, Auburn has started removing the poisoned soil surrounding the two oak trees at Toomer’s Corner on the university’s campus.

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