A judge today upheld a defense attorney’s refusal to identify his client, the driver in a fatal hit-and-run accident. The victim’s parents had gone to court seeking the man’s name.
“The plaintiffs’ case has tremendous emotional appeal and it is difficult to rule against the plaintiffs,” said Circuit Judge Timothy Poulton. “But I am convinced the law requires it.”
He denied a motion by the parents of Mark Baltes, whose body was dragged 60 feet when it was struck by a white Buick after midnight on March 9, 1986. Defense attorney Barry Krischer has shielded his client’s identity for more than 2 1/2 years.
The parents’ attorney said he will appeal.
Krischer said: “This is not a ‘we won-you lost’ situation. This preserves the attorney-client relationship in Florida.”
Both sides have predicted the case will continue in higher courts because of the question of whether civil responsibility supersedes the attorney-client privilege.
The unusual struggle began the day after the accident when the hit-and-run driver approached Krischer and asked if he would initiate a plea-bargain arrangement without revealing the client’s identity to authorities.
According to police, Baltes, a 28-year-old electrician, was intoxicated and quarreled with his fiancee as she drove home from a night out. Baltes got out of the car, staggered down the road and was hit by a car.
He was pronounced dead at the scene. Baltes’ blood-alcohol level was 0.26, more than 2 1/2 times the legal intoxication level.
Detectives, using car fragments at the scene and paint chips found on Baltes’ skull, theorized the vehicle was a 1984 or 1985 white Buick Riviera. But hundreds of police interviews and a reward failed to yield any firm suspects.