Lawyer Drops Dead in Courtroom

A defense lawyer died of an apparent heart attack Thursday while arguing a drunken driving case in a Wake County courtroom.

Tom Farris, 57, of Wilson, collapsed about 11:30 a.m. and died despite efforts to resuscitate him in the courtroom.

"He was at the defense table, and he fell out in the floor between the defense table and the bench where lawyers sit," said Duncan McMillan, a friend and fellow lawyer, who added that Farris had a history of heart problems.

McMillan said he entered the fifth-floor courtroom moments after Farris collapsed and called 911 as court officials tended to Farris.

McMillan said the first emergency personnel showed up nearly six minutes later and did not have defibrillator paddles. Neither did the court building.

Defibrillators, which deliver a shock or series of shocks to the heart and can revive some patients, are increasingly available at stadiums, amusement parks and other large gathering places.

Wake County officials last June allocated money to buy defibrillators but since then have been studying the county's need for them in the courthouse and other buildings.

On Thursday, county spokeswoman Sharon Brown said the courtroom should have between four and 10 defibrillators before June.