Lawyer suspended after advising Facebook friend on murder cover-up

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A Nashville lawyer had his license suspended after he advised a woman over Facebook how to shoot someone and make it look like self defense.

Tennessee’s top judges sanctioned attorney Winston B. Sitton after they discovered he directed a woman to invite an estranged romantic partner to her home, kill him, then lie to police, according to the Tennessean.

The woman’s 2017 post asked how to handle possible abuse or harassment by an ex-partner.

In a comment, Sitton told her to “lure” the man into her home and shoot him, then tell police he broke in and tried to harm her, the paper reported Saturday.

“Even with the new stand your ground law, the castle doctrine is a far safer basis for use of deadly force,” he wrote, according to the opinion reportedly filed by the Tennessee Supreme Court. 

Sitton then wrote that the woman should delete her post, typing: “As a lawyer, I advise you to keep mum about this if you are remotely serious. Your defense is that you are afraid for your life _ revenge or premeditation of any sort will be used against you at trial,” the paper said.

The woman deleted her post, but her ex had already screenshotted the comment and sent them to prosecutors, the Tennessean reported.

At a Board of Professional Responsibility hearing, Sitton maintained he did nothing wrong and did not apologize for what he called sarcastic “dark humor.”

The 30 year law veteran reportedly told the panel he wasn’t “stupid” enough to post the advice in sincerity.

The board recommended the lawyer’s license be suspended for two months, but the high court decided that sanction was insufficient, according to the newspaper.  

“Our rules do not permit lawyers to offer advice on how to commit crime with impunity,” wrote Justice Holly Kirby, who wrote the majority opinion. 

“We agree with Mr. Sitton that it is hard to conceive of any reason why a lawyer, any lawyer, would offer instructions on how to commit murder and stage a concocted defense.. 

“Lawyers who choose to post on social media must realize they are handling live ammunition; doing so requires care and judgment,” the opinion reportedly read. 

The supreme court handed down a four year suspension, with a one year active suspension and a three year probationary period that includes training on ethical social media practices, according to the newspaper.

It’s not the first penalty against Sitton’s license; it was suspended in 2018 for failure to pay professional taxes, the paper reports.

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