Woodward dismisses her lawyer

THE team that defended the British au pair Louise Woodward in her murder trial in Boston last autumn split last night after its junior member, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, was shown the door.

The three remaining lawyers, Harvey Silverglate, Andrew Good - who share a practice in Boston - and the New York-based Barry Scheck, issued a joint statement confirming the dismissal of Ms Whitfield Sharp, saying she had, "at times exhibited an aberrant pattern of behaviour". They added that Woodward had approved of the firing on their recommendation.

"A letter of dismissal has been sent," they said. There was no word from Ms Whitfield Sharp, 44, who is British-born.

This latest twist in the Woodward saga should have little real legal consequence, however. The three remaining lawyers underlined their faith in her claims of innocence and will continue to represent her as she awaits the impending outcome of appeals in the case.

Ms Whitfield Sharp's position appeared to become untenable last week, following news of her being arrested days earlier for drunken driving. In his report, the arresting officer said the lawyer told him she had come to believe her client was guilty of murdering Matthew Eappen, who had been in her charge.

Ms Whitfield Sharp subsequently denied the officer's claims and went further publicly to suggest that he had made sexual advances against her. The officer, Sergeant Randy Cipoletta, yesterday announced that he would sue the lawyer for defamation unless she apologised.

Last week, the Mirror published details of alleged tape-recorded conversations in which Ms Whitfield Sharp criticised Woodward as "a duplicitous monster" and cast further doubts on her innocence.

Ms Whitfield Sharp was responsible for collecting medical evidence for the defence and recruiting expert witnesses. During the trial, she seemed to be closest to Woodward emotionally and put her up in her home when the case was over and went to appeal.

While her erstwhile colleagues recognised that generosity, their statement last night was designed to put maximum distance between Ms Whitfield Sharp and themselves and Woodward. It concluded by pointing out that Woodward had not lived in the lawyer's home since 27 March.

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