CO CO - Suzanne Morphew, 49, Chaffee Co, 10 May 2020 *Case dismissed w/o prejudice* #105

CGray123

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Actually, if you google Linda Stanley and see the claims made about her (past client/case handling and in particular, the claims made by LS during her run to be appointed DA), I would imagine, that seeing as these are in the public domain, that gave the Office of Attorney Regulation grounds for investigation. I am not sure if Attorney Regulation in the US is the same or similar to that of the UK, but dishonesty/telling fibs/making misleading claims is/are grounds for permanent disbarrment (removal from the Roll) in the UK. I would hope that similar would apply in the US.


Rule 3.3 of the Colorado Rules for Professional Conduct requires that attorneys be honest and forthcoming in their statements to the court, and there are other rules requiring integrity with one another and with clients. However, I haven't found a rule that would require a candidate for office to be quite so scrupulously honest in campaign statements. The regulators figure that's an issue for the voters to decide.

But in theory at least, misleading statements to the court could result in discipline.

Far more likely in my mind - especially since the allegations under investigation are "publicly known" - is an investigation is into the claims of discovery violations. This has been a big issue in Colorado, and at least one elected official has been disciplined (probationer) and sued civilly for extensive and egregious conduct:

"Frank Ruybalid, Trinidad District Attorney, Cops a Plea, Admits Misconduct

ALAN PRENDERGAST for Westword

JANUARY 29, 2015 11:50AM

These are not the best of times for the criminal justice system in Trinidad. The city and two of its police detectives are being sued by the ACLU of Colorado, which claims the detectives fabricated and misrepresented evidence in a 2013 drug investigation that led to the arrests of forty people -- a misbegotten operation involving fake drugs and unreliable informants that resulted in all forty cases being dismissed, as detailed in my November feature "The Snitch Who Stole Christmas." And now Third Judicial District Attorney Frank Ruybalid has settled a state ethics investigation of his office by admitting that he mishandled several other prosecutions that ended up being dismissed -- cases ranging from theft and drugs to sexual assault and second-degree murder.

Yesterday, the Colorado Supreme Court's Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel announced that it reached a settlement in its probe of complaints about Ruybalid's office, which dates back two years. Under the terms of the agreement, Ruybalid admitted to thirteen violations of the state's rules for professional conduct of attorneys. Presiding disciplinary judge William Lucero ordered that Ruybalid's law license be suspended for six months -- then suspended the suspension, provided that Ruybalid complete a 23-month period of probation.

The probation conditions include what the OARC describes as a "robust audit" of Ruybalid's office and ongoing monitoring and review of his caseload. Ruybalid will also be required to pay $23,000 in court costs and attend a one-day ethics course. The settlement agreement notes that private attorneys "have received sanctions more severe than a six-month stayed suspension" for conduct similar to Ruybalid's but concludes that probation is appropriate in his case. In exchange for his admission of misconduct, the office agreed to drop numerous other claims of violations by the DA in several other prosecutions.

The admissions include ignoring court orders and failing to turn over discovery to the defense in seven criminal prosecutions that were later voluntarily dismissed by Ruybalid or tossed by judges; in one, a theft defendant pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor but several felony charges were dropped. In nine other cases that were handled -- make that mishandled -- by inexperienced deputies, Ruybalid admitted that he failed to properly supervise his employees.

Prior to reaching a settlement in the ethics investigation, Ruybalid had denied any wrongdoing, blaming many of the dismissals on being short-staffed. He lamented that it was difficult to attract and retain qualified attorneys in economically troubled southern Colorado, and that the county commissioners slashed his budget by 19 percent this year, forcing him lay off administrative assistants and leave one part-time prosecutor position vacant.

All of the cases in the OARC complaint predate the drug roundup of 2013 that's now the target of the ACLU lawsuit, but they're not entirely unrelated. Three of the cases that the OARC cites as involving violations by Ruybalid were drug cases in which key information about the confidential informant -- that theft charges against him had been dropped, that he was using heroin while working for the police, that law enforcement was paying his rent during the sting operation -- wasn't properly disclosed to the defense. Similar issues arose in the use of the informants in the 2013 sting.

One of the informants in the 2013 sting, Crystal Bachicha, pleaded guilty to one count of perjury and is scheduled to be sentenced next month. Ruybalid is serving his second term as district attorney, which ends at the end of 2016.

Read the full admission of misconduct below."
 

Nikynoo

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Rule 3.3 of the Colorado Rules for Professional Conduct requires that attorneys be honest and forthcoming in their statements to the court, and there are other rules requiring integrity with one another and with clients. However, I haven't found a rule that would require a candidate for office to be quite so scrupulously honest in campaign statements. The regulators figure that's an issue for the voters to decide.
SBBM - I disagree - the role was for DA not just any other policitcal role, but the highest ranking legal role in that jurisdiction/county.

I cannot see Regulators who require honesty and integrity, turning a blind eye to any untruths told during an election campaign.
 

Nikynoo

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Rule 3.3 of the Colorado Rules for Professional Conduct requires that attorneys be honest and forthcoming in their statements to the court, and there are other rules requiring integrity with one another and with clients. However, I haven't found a rule that would require a candidate for office to be quite so scrupulously honest in campaign statements.
Rule 8 The Colorado Bar > For Members > Opinions Rules Statutes > Rules of Professional Conduct > Rule 8.2 Judicial and Legal Officials

[1] Assessments by lawyers are relied on in evaluating the professional or personal fitness of persons being considered for election or appointment to judicial office and to public legal offices, such as attorney general, prosecuting attorney and public defender. Expressing honest and candid opinions on such matters contributes to improving the administration of justice. Conversely, false statements by a lawyer can unfairly undermine public confidence in the administration of justice.
 

CGray123

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SBBM - I disagree - the role was for DA not just any other policitcal role, but the highest ranking legal role in that jurisdiction/county.yy

I cannot see Regulators who require honesty and integrity, turning a blind eye to any untruths told during an election campaign.
Thank you for pointing this out: it's fair criticism.

I am not suggesting that the American penchant for lying in political speech is a good thing, only that the regulators of professional conduct in Colorado (an arm of the government) must defer to the First Amendment, which protects political speech above all others. U.S. v. Alvarez (2012)

It might be different if professional conduct were regulated by the bar association or some other private entity.
 

CGray123

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Rule 8 The Colorado Bar > For Members > Opinions Rules Statutes > Rules of Professional Conduct > Rule 8.2 Judicial and Legal Officials

[1] Assessments by lawyers are relied on in evaluating the professional or personal fitness of persons being considered for election or appointment to judicial office and to public legal offices, such as attorney general, prosecuting attorney and public defender. Expressing honest and candid opinions on such matters contributes to improving the administration of justice. Conversely, false statements by a lawyer can unfairly undermine public confidence in the administration of justice.
I agree that lying lawyers serve no public good, but this comment to RPC 8.2 would apply, as a disciplinary matter, only to an attorney's comments about the fitness of another person for public legal office. The rule to which it is appended recites the current standard for defamation of a public figure in the United States, as follows:

(a) A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory officer or public legal officer or of a candidate for election, or appointment to, or retention in, judicial or legal office.

Given the First Amendment protections that apply, this rule is, in effect, a reminder not to indulge in defamation about candidates than a restriction on puffing about oneself as a candidate. MOO (non lawyer).
 

CGray123

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I cannot see Regulators who require honesty and integrity, turning a blind eye to any untruths told during an election campaign.
RSBM for focus. ITA. I think regulators investigating LS will not turn a blind I to her history of ineptitude, malfeasance, and prevarication. If an important question turns on the credibility of her statements, her history will only magnify the investigators' skepticism.
 

WingsOverTX

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Rule 3.3 of the Colorado Rules for Professional Conduct requires that attorneys be honest and forthcoming in their statements to the court, and there are other rules requiring integrity with one another and with clients. However, I haven't found a rule that would require a candidate for office to be quite so scrupulously honest in campaign statements. The regulators figure that's an issue for the voters to decide.

But in theory at least, misleading statements to the court could result in discipline.

Far more likely in my mind - especially since the allegations under investigation are "publicly known" - is an investigation is into the claims of discovery violations. This has been a big issue in Colorado, and at least one elected official has been disciplined (probationer) and sued civilly for extensive and egregious conduct:

"Frank Ruybalid, Trinidad District Attorney, Cops a Plea, Admits Misconduct

ALAN PRENDERGAST for Westword

JANUARY 29, 2015 11:50AM

These are not the best of times for the criminal justice system in Trinidad. The city and two of its police detectives are being sued by the ACLU of Colorado, which claims the detectives fabricated and misrepresented evidence in a 2013 drug investigation that led to the arrests of forty people -- a misbegotten operation involving fake drugs and unreliable informants that resulted in all forty cases being dismissed, as detailed in my November feature "The Snitch Who Stole Christmas." And now Third Judicial District Attorney Frank Ruybalid has settled a state ethics investigation of his office by admitting that he mishandled several other prosecutions that ended up being dismissed -- cases ranging from theft and drugs to sexual assault and second-degree murder.

Yesterday, the Colorado Supreme Court's Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel announced that it reached a settlement in its probe of complaints about Ruybalid's office, which dates back two years. Under the terms of the agreement, Ruybalid admitted to thirteen violations of the state's rules for professional conduct of attorneys. Presiding disciplinary judge William Lucero ordered that Ruybalid's law license be suspended for six months -- then suspended the suspension, provided that Ruybalid complete a 23-month period of probation.

The probation conditions include what the OARC describes as a "robust audit" of Ruybalid's office and ongoing monitoring and review of his caseload. Ruybalid will also be required to pay $23,000 in court costs and attend a one-day ethics course. The settlement agreement notes that private attorneys "have received sanctions more severe than a six-month stayed suspension" for conduct similar to Ruybalid's but concludes that probation is appropriate in his case. In exchange for his admission of misconduct, the office agreed to drop numerous other claims of violations by the DA in several other prosecutions.

The admissions include ignoring court orders and failing to turn over discovery to the defense in seven criminal prosecutions that were later voluntarily dismissed by Ruybalid or tossed by judges; in one, a theft defendant pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor but several felony charges were dropped. In nine other cases that were handled -- make that mishandled -- by inexperienced deputies, Ruybalid admitted that he failed to properly supervise his employees.

Prior to reaching a settlement in the ethics investigation, Ruybalid had denied any wrongdoing, blaming many of the dismissals on being short-staffed. He lamented that it was difficult to attract and retain qualified attorneys in economically troubled southern Colorado, and that the county commissioners slashed his budget by 19 percent this year, forcing him lay off administrative assistants and leave one part-time prosecutor position vacant.

All of the cases in the OARC complaint predate the drug roundup of 2013 that's now the target of the ACLU lawsuit, but they're not entirely unrelated. Three of the cases that the OARC cites as involving violations by Ruybalid were drug cases in which key information about the confidential informant -- that theft charges against him had been dropped, that he was using heroin while working for the police, that law enforcement was paying his rent during the sting operation -- wasn't properly disclosed to the defense. Similar issues arose in the use of the informants in the 2013 sting.

One of the informants in the 2013 sting, Crystal Bachicha, pleaded guilty to one count of perjury and is scheduled to be sentenced next month. Ruybalid is serving his second term as district attorney, which ends at the end of 2016.

Read the full admission of misconduct below."
Wow. I thought I would read he was disbarred. Probation only? I hope they looked beyond his in office conduct into his mental health, possible drug/alcohol problems, etc.

This kind of malfeasance is a very rare occurrence at the DA level anywhere, I would think (& hope).

How this person's misconduct relates to the unknown matters under investigation about Stanley, I don't know. The accusations against her being out in the "public domain" is a broad statement that is completely open to interpretation.

I would need to know a lot more about specifics. I think the media immediately bringing IE's wild accusations (and lies) into play was foul ball. Maybe she has some legit beefs in all her pontificating. If so, let the investigation reveal the details. Speculation without facts is irresponsible IMO.

I would also want to know a lot more about the specific reasons the Morphew prosecutors failed to meet the reasonable expectations of the district judges.

Where is the investigation into the conduct of the team of professionals led by Stanley? A proper & thorough investigation should look more widely.

Even if LS loses her job that may not change the conduct of a future prosecution team, should the Morphew matter not be transferred to a special prosecutor. That would be my preference.
 

Nikynoo

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Wow. I thought I would read he was disbarred. Probation only? I hope they looked beyond his in office conduct into his mental health, possible drug/alcohol problems, etc.

This kind of malfeasance is a very rare occurrence at the DA level anywhere, I would think (& hope).

How this person's misconduct relates to the unknown matters under investigation about Stanley, I don't know. The accusations against her being out in the "public domain" is a broad statement that is completely open to interpretation.

I would need to know a lot more about specifics. I think the media immediately bringing IE's wild accusations (and lies) into play was foul ball. Maybe she has some legit beefs in all her pontificating. If so, let the investigation reveal the details. Speculation without facts is irresponsible IMO.

I would also want to know a lot more about the specific reasons the Morphew prosecutors failed to meet the reasonable expectations of the district judges.

Where is the investigation into the conduct of the team of professionals led by Stanley? A proper & thorough investigation should look more widely.

Even if LS loses her job that may not change the conduct of a future prosecution team, should the Morphew matter not be transferred to a special prosecutor. That would be my preference.
IMO the investigation is not to do with the Morphew case.
 

Nikynoo

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I agree that lying lawyers serve no public good, but this comment to RPC 8.2 would apply, as a disciplinary matter, only to an attorney's comments about the fitness of another person for public legal office. The rule to which it is appended recites the current standard for defamation of a public figure in the United States, as follows:

(a) A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory officer or public legal officer or of a candidate for election, or appointment to, or retention in, judicial or legal office.

Given the First Amendment protections that apply, this rule is, in effect, a reminder not to indulge in defamation about candidates than a restriction on puffing about oneself as a candidate. MOO (non lawyer).
Yes, you are correct. However, the preamble gives some insight as what is the required standard. Thanks for your input on this!
 

Nikynoo

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Thank you for pointing this out: it's fair criticism.

I am not suggesting that the American penchant for lying in political speech is a good thing, only that the regulators of professional conduct in Colorado (an arm of the government) must defer to the First Amendment, which protects political speech above all others. U.S. v. Alvarez (2012)

It might be different if professional conduct were regulated by the bar association or some other private entity.
WOW! so the 1st Amendment protects liars? BTW, Its not just an American penchant for lying in political speech, we have plenty of those here too! I guess perhaps the DA should not be a political post? (I know that is not a popular idea in the US :))
 

Seattle1

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I would need to know a lot more about specifics. I think the media immediately bringing IE's wild accusations (and lies) into play was foul ball. Maybe she has some legit beefs in all her pontificating. If so, let the investigation reveal the details. Speculation without facts is irresponsible IMO.
^^rsbbm

I think the key word here is "allegations" -- OARC is investigating allegations by a public complaint.

And how telling that local 9News would rather give Iris airtime to share her very personal opinion rather than interview DA Linda Stanley on charging and prosecuting a 40-year cold case investigation where two victims and their families finally got justice.

OARC is generally bound by rules requiring confidentiality pursuant to C.R.C.P. 242.41, and where respondents and complaining witnesses are NOT bound by confidentiality rules.

Who wants to guess the party feeding the local news media? :rolleyes:

“Bobbi Jo (Oberholtzer) was a fighter and is a hero. She fought back and because of that we were able to get DNA evidence to convict Annette and Bobbi Jo’s killer after all this time,” said District Attorney Linda Stanley, 11th Judicial District, in a news release.

Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw said that his office, the 11th Judicial District Attorney, CBI investigators and crime analysts and United Data Connect, a forensic science computing firm, worked together for justice in the cold case.

Deputy District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said that the long-awaited conviction should serve as a reminder that cold case, unsolved murders do not close.

“This absolutely gives hope to people,” Hurlbert said. “This case being so old, this shows there’s no case that can’t be solved.”

Phillips faces life in prison when he is sentenced at a hearing set for Nov. 7 in Fairplay, Park County, Colorado.


 

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^^rsbbm

I think the key word here is "allegations" -- OARC is investigating allegations by a public complaint.

And how telling that local 9News would rather give Iris airtime to share her very personal opinion rather than interview DA Linda Stanley on charging and prosecuting a 40-year cold case investigation where two victims and their families finally got justice.

OARC is generally bound by rules requiring confidentiality pursuant to C.R.C.P. 242.41, and where respondents and complaining witnesses are NOT bound by confidentiality rules.

Who wants to guess the party feeding the local news media? :rolleyes:

“Bobbi Jo (Oberholtzer) was a fighter and is a hero. She fought back and because of that we were able to get DNA evidence to convict Annette and Bobbi Jo’s killer after all this time,” said District Attorney Linda Stanley, 11th Judicial District, in a news release.

Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw said that his office, the 11th Judicial District Attorney, CBI investigators and crime analysts and United Data Connect, a forensic science computing firm, worked together for justice in the cold case.

Deputy District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said that the long-awaited conviction should serve as a reminder that cold case, unsolved murders do not close.

“This absolutely gives hope to people,” Hurlbert said. “This case being so old, this shows there’s no case that can’t be solved.”

Phillips faces life in prison when he is sentenced at a hearing set for Nov. 7 in Fairplay, Park County, Colorado.


Kudos to that team for their resilience - especially MH.

Though, as LS was only elected in November 2020 and the arrest was made in February 2021, IMO most of the work on the case was already done by the time she took the helm.
 

CGray123

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Wow. I thought I would read he was disbarred. Probation only? I hope they looked beyond his in office conduct into his mental health, possible drug/alcohol problems, etc.

This kind of malfeasance is a very rare occurrence at the DA level anywhere, I would think (& hope).
RSBM. I suspect that some consideration was given to the fact that he was taking responsibility for lapses of his entire office, including inexperienced deputies and staffers, and for the fact that the rural 3rd Judicial District suffers from conditions that are common in rural areas (including the adjacent 11th District where LS serves). As described in the article:

"Prior to reaching a settlement in the ethics investigation, Ruybalid had denied any wrongdoing, blaming many of the dismissals on being short-staffed. He lamented that it was difficult to attract and retain qualified attorneys in economically troubled southern Colorado, and that the county commissioners slashed his budget by 19 percent this year, forcing him lay off administrative assistants and leave one part-time prosecutor position vacant."

Also, Ruybalid accepted intrusive remedial measures that might improve conditions, including a rigorous audit of his office.

The issue of discovery problems has arisen often enough in Colorado that Prosecutors, the defense bar, and the Supreme Court and considering the establishment of a special rule to deal with it.
 

mrjitty

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^^rsbbm

I think the key word here is "allegations" -- OARC is investigating allegations by a public complaint.

And how telling that local 9News would rather give Iris airtime to share her very personal opinion rather than interview DA Linda Stanley on charging and prosecuting a 40-year cold case investigation where two victims and their families finally got justice.

OARC is generally bound by rules requiring confidentiality pursuant to C.R.C.P. 242.41, and where respondents and complaining witnesses are NOT bound by confidentiality rules.

Who wants to guess the party feeding the local news media? :rolleyes:

“Bobbi Jo (Oberholtzer) was a fighter and is a hero. She fought back and because of that we were able to get DNA evidence to convict Annette and Bobbi Jo’s killer after all this time,” said District Attorney Linda Stanley, 11th Judicial District, in a news release.

Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw said that his office, the 11th Judicial District Attorney, CBI investigators and crime analysts and United Data Connect, a forensic science computing firm, worked together for justice in the cold case.

Deputy District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said that the long-awaited conviction should serve as a reminder that cold case, unsolved murders do not close.

“This absolutely gives hope to people,” Hurlbert said. “This case being so old, this shows there’s no case that can’t be solved.”

Phillips faces life in prison when he is sentenced at a hearing set for Nov. 7 in Fairplay, Park County, Colorado.



Shows the risks of seeing everything through the prism of this case.
 

Seattle1

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Kudos to that team for their resilience - especially MH.

Though, as LS was only elected in November 2020 and the arrest was made in February 2021, IMO most of the work on the case was already done by the time she took the helm.
^^bbm

I wondered tha the voters chose her. There are 4 Counties in the 11th Judicial district: Chaffee, Fremont, Custer, and Park.
Sheriff Spezze supported Stanley. She was his choice for this case. The other three county sheriffs supported the appointed incumbent DA Turner. Turner had no cold case to her name, her experience was defending correction officers and police from criminal and prisoner suits. But the other sheriffs said they l were very satisfied with her.

Given all this this I hoped wanted Stanley to succeed.
^^bbm

IMO, I'd say it's well-established DA Stanley's predecessor wouldn't touch this or any other cold case in the 11th Judicial District.

I recall the Park County Sheriff's presser where he credited DA Linda Stanley for working weekends and being available to the team late evenings, and moved the case forward after working closely with the investigative team for six weeks.

But more important, similar to Kelsie Schelling's parents, I think the families of the two victims here would beg to differ with OP about who they credit for taking these two murders off the shelf, filing the state charges, and obtaining long-awaited justice for the two victims.


It's OK to give credit where credit is due. MOO
 

mrjitty

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^^rsbbm

I think the key word here is "allegations" -- OARC is investigating allegations by a public complaint.

And how telling that local 9News would rather give Iris airtime to share her very personal opinion rather than interview DA Linda Stanley on charging and prosecuting a 40-year cold case investigation where two victims and their families finally got justice.

OARC is generally bound by rules requiring confidentiality pursuant to C.R.C.P. 242.41, and where respondents and complaining witnesses are NOT bound by confidentiality rules.

Who wants to guess the party feeding the local news media? :rolleyes:

“Bobbi Jo (Oberholtzer) was a fighter and is a hero. She fought back and because of that we were able to get DNA evidence to convict Annette and Bobbi Jo’s killer after all this time,” said District Attorney Linda Stanley, 11th Judicial District, in a news release.

Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw said that his office, the 11th Judicial District Attorney, CBI investigators and crime analysts and United Data Connect, a forensic science computing firm, worked together for justice in the cold case.

Deputy District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said that the long-awaited conviction should serve as a reminder that cold case, unsolved murders do not close.

“This absolutely gives hope to people,” Hurlbert said. “This case being so old, this shows there’s no case that can’t be solved.”

Phillips faces life in prison when he is sentenced at a hearing set for Nov. 7 in Fairplay, Park County, Colorado.



So basically this could be a stitchup

i.e Bazza complained (confidential) and the media race to IE for comment
 

Nikynoo

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^^bbm


^^bbm

IMO, I'd say it's well-established DA Stanley's predecessor wouldn't touch this or any other cold case in the 11th Judicial District.

I recall the Park County Sheriff's presser where he credited DA Linda Stanley for working weekends and being available to the team late evenings, and moved the case forward after working closely with the investigative team for six weeks.

But more important, similar to Kelsie Schelling's parents, I think the families of the two victims here would beg to differ with OP about who they credit for taking these two murders off the shelf, filing the state charges, and obtaining long-awaited justice for the two victims.


It's OK to give credit where credit is due. MOO
I did - Kudos to MH
 

mrjitty

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Having read the excellent posts in the last couple of pages I am really reminded of a post @gitana1 made earlier in the year

To paraphrase (from memory): Discovery violations are too common, are part of the game, and usually go unpunished.

So there is no great conspiracy here. Rather it's just bureaucratic incompetence and business as usual which exploded here in a very complex case, and with all kinds of background disruption (omicron) - and the Judge got mad, and made a ruling that is likely legally incorrect.

Because we are so focussed on the prism of this case, its tempting to think it's all connected from the AA to the collapse of the case - whereas it could well be the case that the evidence was all ready to go, and but the DA simply didn't disclose it on time because SNAFU

The conspiratorial take is of course pushed by IE.
 
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