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Looking Cloud lawyer asks to be taken off case -- again

Associated Press (AP)
March 22, 2004

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - The lawyer representing a man convicted of killing an American Indian Movement activist wants a federal judge to remove him from the case because "the attorney-client relationship has broken down substantially."

According to a court motion, Tim Rensch asked U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol to remove him as Arlo Looking Cloud's lawyer.

No hearing has been scheduled on the request.

A Rapid City jury convicted Looking Cloud last month for the 1975 killing of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. He's scheduled to be sentenced April 23 to a mandatory life prison term.

Earlier this month, in a handwritten letter to the judge, Looking Cloud said he wants attorney Terry Gilbert to represent him instead of Rensch. Piersol rejected that request.

Aquash was a member of the American Indian Movement. Her body was found near Wanblee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in February 1976, a few months after she was kidnapped from a Denver home.

John Graham is also charged with her killing. He's free on bond in Vancouver, British Columbia, and plans to fight extradition.

This is the second time Rensch and Looking Cloud have been at odds. Last fall, Rensch asked to be taken off the case but withdrew the request when Looking Cloud agreed to cooperate.

In the latest document, Rensch said the two had been working well together until the guilty verdict.

"Throughout the trial the defendant expressed to friends and family how pleased he was with my work," Rensch wrote.

But the lawyer said after the conviction, Looking Cloud gave a media interview that was derogatory toward him and that he refuses to communicate.

When an associate lawyer met with Looking Cloud to go over his options, he "was adversarial and spiteful and was such that I do not believe that there is any way the two of us can work together in any fashion from this point forward," Rensch said an affidavit.

"I have done my duty in this case and hope this court will honor the defendant's wishes and relieve me from this case," he said.

Gilbert, the Cleveland lawyer Looking Cloud wants to represent him, said Monday that he has defended AIM members since the 1970s and has insight that could help Looking Cloud in his appeal.

He said he asked the judge to appoint him as co-counsel during Looking Cloud's trial but Piersol would not approve a second lawyer.

Gilbert said Rensch could still represent Looking Cloud at his sentencing next month, but he'd like to take up the case on appeal.

"I was a Wounded Knee lawyer. I was one of Leonard Peltier's lawyers. I've been involved in a lot of these cases," he said. "It's likely I will be involved. But right now there's a kind of legal limbo as to what my official role is."


Copyright Associated Press (AP) 2004