Judge: Murder defendant can’t fire his lawyer

Steve Nash steve.nash@brownwoodbulletin.com
Michael Zarate

Michael Zarate isn’t happy with his court-appointed attorney, and his attorney doesn’t seem to exactly view Zarate as a model client.

Zarate, who is charged with murder in the Nov. 2 shooting death of Ernesto Gonzales Jr. in Brownwood, unsuccessfully tried to fire his lawyer, Charles King of San Angelo, in a 35th District Court hearing Monday.

District Judge Steve Ellis denied Zarate’s request to fire King. Zarate, 31, insisted that King isn’t communicating with him about the multiple cases including murder that Karate faces. Zarate claimed that King has been ignoring his questions.

Not so, King responded. King said he has communicated adequately with his client although, King said, he doesn’t yet have a lot of information for him because he is still working to formulate a defense.

“I’m not the babysitter,” King told Ellis. “While I’m in the trenches working on the case, he’s mad because I’m not the babysitter.”

King said he knows how to do his job and said Zarate is the one who won’t communicate. He said Zarate had refused to speak with the court-appointed investigator who is assisting Zarate and had also indicated he wasn’t going to talk about the murder.

“I’m not going to put up with this bull,” King told Ellis. … I don’t need him to tell him how to do my job. … He’s on the county feed trough and he’s mad because I’m not a miracle worker. He hasn’t asked me one thing about the murder case because he won’t talk to me about the murder case.”

Ellis told Zarate he seems to be hurting himself by refusing to talk to his lawyer and investigator. Ellis also directed King to “communicate with your client. You’re a capable attorney. You don’t have to like each other but you have to work together. 

Zarate is in the Brown County Jail on additional charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child, indecency with a child and evidence tampering. His bonds total $650,000.