The man accused of murdering Wayland teen Lauren Astley last year has been granted two weeks to retain new counsel after he announced his desire to part ways with his current attorney in court Monday.
Nathaniel Fujita, 19, is accused of killing Astley, his ex-girlfriend, in July 2011. Since his arrest days after the murder, he has been represented by William Sullivan.
Fujita was scheduled to appear in Middlesex County Superior Court Monday for the prosecution's motions related to his possible insanity defense, but the prosecution learned Monday morning that Fujita intended to request a change of counsel.
"I don't feel comfortable with him representing me," Fujita said when Judge S. Jane Haggerty questioned his decision.Looking for updates on this and other news important to Wayland? Subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Sullivan asked Haggerty for permission to withdraw from the case, citing "a breakdown in the laywer/client relationship." He also explained that Fujita's parents, Tomo and Beth Fujita, had retained his services and he believed Fujita could be considered indigent.
During a brief recess, the probation department determined Fujita was, in fact, indigent given that he remains in custody.
Haggerty explained to Fujita that she would appoint him new counsel, but urged him to think critically about his decision, saying it "may not be the wisest." She also warned him that changing counsel would not be a "regular occurrence."
Family representative George Mattingly said Fujita's family "does not agree with this decision" and is hopeful Fujita will ultimately retain his current counsel. He said the decision seems to be have been made this morning.
If Fujita does decide to part ways with Sullivan, Mattingly said, it seems he will have appointed counsel rather than his family paying to retain a new attorney.
"We think Bill Sullivan is a superb lawyer," Mattingly said. "We're hoping Nathaniel will get back on board."
Mattingly said that the family visits Fujita regularly and he assumed the retention of counsel would be a topic of conversation between them.
Fujita asked the judge for some time to make arrangements for new private counsel and was granted two weeks. Fujita will return to court on Oct. 16 at 2 p.m., at which time the prosecution's motions regarding the insanity defense will be addressed as well as the possible change in representation.
For the time being, Sullivan remains Fujita's attorney.