With roughly 20 years left until he is released from prison for killing a Lake Worth Middle School teacher, Nathaniel Brazill made an appearance in court Friday, politely telling a judge that he changed his mind about firing his attorney.
Now 21, Brazill has spent much of his time in prison studying law books, having written his own motion arguing that his trial attorney did not effectively represent him and that he deserves a new trial.
"I'm impressed with his intellect. He's not some dreadlocked gang-banger from the street," said his court-appointed attorney Gregg Lerman after the hearing. He added that Brazill probably could have been a lawyer or teacher if the shooting had not occurred.
Brazill, convicted of second-degree murder in the May 2000 death of teacher Barry Grunow, had filed a motion attempting to discharge Lerman, who is helping him with his post-conviction motion. He withdrew it Friday morning in a court hearing before Circuit Judge William Berger.
Lerman apologized in court for having put Brazill's case on the back burner for the last year, during which he has tried three first-degree murder cases and more than a dozen other felonies.
"We ironed out those issues and I made a commitment to him," Lerman told Berger in court.
Sitting at a defense table with his legs shackled, Brazill spoke with confidence and courtesy to Berger, saying he was satisfied with Lerman's explanation for the lack of communication between them. He also requested to be taken back to prison in Arcadia, where he works at the facility's law library, rather than await the hearing in the Palm Beach County Jail.
Originally scheduled for March 14, a new hearing date has not been set. Prosecutor Barbara Burns indicated she's prepared, but Berger agreed to give Lerman more time and said he'll set a hearing date when the attorneys come back to court in two weeks.
Brazill is serving a 28-year sentence for shooting one of his teachers when he was 13. Brazill was sent home on the last day of school because Grunow refused to let him talk to two students inside a classroom.
Preparing for the hearing will be considerably more intensive than the typical ineffective-assistance-of-counsel hearing, given the fact he'll have to review transcripts from a lengthy trial, Lerman said.
Lerman added that he's impressed with Brazill's communication skills and his courtesy.
"He's a pretty good kid, quite honestly," Lerman said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun