Local News

Attorney Dies During Wake County Trial

Posted April 20, 2006

— In a tragic turn of events during a trial in Wake County, a defense attorney collapsed and died Thursday while questioning a police officer on the witness stand.

"They were right in the middle of arguing the admissibility of a piece of evidence, and that's when he collapsed," said Wake County Judge Paul Gessner.

Gessner said the incident it happened during a DWI case. Defense attorney Tom Farris finished questioning a Cary Police officer on the stand when he suddenly collapsed. Wake County courtroom 5B went from trial room to trauma center in a matter of seconds.

"There were officers in the jury box that rushed over, and the other one bolted from the witness stand," said Gessner. The one on the witness stand ultimately started CPR."

But Farris could not be saved. His law office was based in Wilson, but he had practiced here in Raleigh for many years and was still very well known at the Wake County Courthouse.

Attorneys Robert and Duncan McMillan knew him well.

"Tom was just extremely well thought of and held in high regard by everyone here in Raleigh," said Duncan McMillan.

"Everyone respected him," said Robert McMillan.

And Gessner says everyone tried his or her best to save him.

"It was an awful situation, but he received the best care," said Gessner. "They tried the best they could, and I can't say enough about the Cary and Raleigh police officers who came to his aid."

Friends told WRAL that Farris had heart problems, but wanted to continue working. He was 58 years old, and leaves behind three grown children.

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