Legal Aid Assigned to Represent Man Accused in Subway Death Case
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2012

The New York Times that The Legal Aid Society has been assigned to represent a man accused in the recent subway death case. Stephen Pokart, a Society staff attorney with extensive experience in complex cases, is representing this client. In an article on a court hearing in the case, the Times reported on Mr. Pokart's statements in open court regarding a justification defense.




The New York Times
Lawyer Posits Justification in Fatal Push in Subway
December 11, 2011
By Russ Buettner

A lawyer for the man charged with pushing a Queens man onto a subway track in front of an approaching Q train last week said Tuesday that his client’s actions might have been justified because the man who died had been drinking and was harassing him.

The accused man, Naeem Davis, appeared briefly in Criminal Court in Manhattan. Mr. Davis said nothing in court.

His lawyer, Stephen Pokart of Legal Aid, said he had agreed to allow prosecutors another week to present the case to a grand jury, something the law generally requires within six days of arrest. James Lin, an assistant district attorney, told the judge that the case would be put before a grand jury by next Tuesday.

In court, Mr. Pokart mentioned several news accounts in describing potentially exculpatory material he is entitled to receive from prosecutors.

Mr. Pokart told the judge that news articles had cited witnesses saying that the man who died, Ki-Suck Han, smelled of alcohol, and was staggering and following Mr. Davis. The lawyer also mentioned a video showing Mr. Davis, 30, telling Mr. Han, 58, to leave him alone.

Outside the courtroom, Mr. Pokart said witness accounts he had read described Mr. Han’s actions as “problematical” and Mr. Davis as not guilty of murder.

“If he pushed to get him away from him, it may have been justified,” Mr. Pokart said.

“Unfortunately, it appears that the push was too hard and he fell off the platform.”

The police have said that Mr. Davis, who did odd jobs for vendors around Midtown, pushed Mr. Han, who lived in Elmhurst, onto the tracks in the 49th Street subway station on Dec. 3. Mr. Davis was charged with second-degree murder.

Initial accounts by the police had described the pusher as emotionally disturbed.

Mr. Han’s death renewed the fears of many subway riders. A news photographer who captured the haunting moment as the train approached — to warn the driver with his flash, he said — has endured a nationwide second-guessing of his courage and priorities.

Mr. Pokart declined to discuss specifically what his client has said happened. “His intention was clearly to get Mr. Han away from him,” he said.

Asked by a reporter why his client did not help Mr. Han up, Mr. Pokart hypothesized that Mr. Davis may have been “stunned.”