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The patterns, say those in a position to document them, have been there almost since her election. Linda Stanley was elected the District Attorney for the 11th Judicial District of Colorado in November 2020. She has just been sanctioned by 11th District Judge Kaitlin Turner, who she happened to defeat in the 2020 race for District Attorney.

11th Judicial District DA Linda Stanley presenting her 2021 budget before the boards of county commissioners for the four counties of the 11th: Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, and Park counties. Photo by Jan Wondra.

On case after case the production of discovery documents has been delayed, incomplete, or the background for the case shifts, but the discovery detail is not forthcoming.

The situation is allowing indicted individuals to go free or plead down their cases, with their defense attorneys saying they aren’t getting the information they need to provide fair representation for their clients under the law.

Worse, the victims of these crimes are left without justice; which could be seen as revictimizing them because they aren’t getting their day in court to confront their attacker.

Across a variety of crucial cases since 2020, court insiders including Fremont County Trial Court Judge Kaitlin Turner, say Stanley and her office staff have failed to provide the discovery information in a timely fashion so that the defense attorneys can prepare to defend their clients against charges.

Delays in turning over discovery documents have been repeatedly documented. During the Barry Morphew murder trial, Defense Attorney Iris Eytan actually made a motion to dismiss the case in Dec. 2021 due to the delays, and that request was repeated several times in court before the case was dismissed in April 2022:

“The case was to go to trial beginning April 28. Some may have anticipated this move after most of the witnesses for the DA’s office were rejected by the judge for the manner in which their evidence had been presented. Other evidence that might have shown another alternative for who could have been responsible for the disappearance of Morphew’s wife Suzanne Morphew, and her presumed murder was not provided to the defense attorneys in a manner considered timely.”

This case was not a singular event. Over the past two years, according to Turner, there have been as many as 20 cases in which prosecutors in Stanley’s DA Office have a “pattern of widespread discovery violations”.

The defendants allowed to go free are appalling: an admitted child sex abuser. A murderer who had already admitted to shooting his father in the back of the head.

Barry and Suzanne Morphew in better times. Family photo.

Turner’s 21-page decision includes her observation that a similar violation (the lack of timely discovery document delivery) had occurred in the murder case before her.

She ordered that the first-degree murder charge against defendant Joseph Tippet, accused of shooting his 72-year-old father in the head be reduced to a second-degree murder charge as a sanction for the prosecutors’ misconduct.

In that case, as covered by the Canon City Daily Record, after months of delays, on March 29, 2023 the DA’s office finally filed a certificate of compliance that it had produced all known discovery by that court-ordered deadline.

Public Defender Adam Tunink wasn’t so sure. “For the first time in this case, I have the majority of the discovery as of today. I am not going to represent that I think I have all of it, but I think that I have the majority of the discovery as of today.”

Citizens begun to note the pattern of non-delivery and its impact on allowing indicted suspects to go free. Two sources told Ark Valley Voice (AVV) and shared the proof that the office of the Colorado Attorney General (AG) Phil Wieser had been receiving complaints. But the AG’s office has consistently pointed out that the AG’s office “does not have the ability to intervene with DA offices.*”

A source in contact with AVV, who asked that he remain unidentified, shared that several VRA complaints have been filed. The Victim Rights Act (VRA) in Colorado ensures that crime victims are treated with fairness, respect, dignity and that they are free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse. He said that he and a few others have “been working for a few years to give a voice to victims and families across the 11th.”

The list of cases is quite shocking. KRDO Radio reported that 39-year-old Brandon Allen was charged with Sexual Assault on a Child in a position of trust and Sexual Assault on a Child in October 2022. The arresting documents detail accusations that Allen sexually assaulted a young girl on multiple occasions (which he denied in interviews with the Florence Police Department).

Court documents say that while he lied several times during his interviews, that his comments were consistent with victim’s and witnesses’ statements. Allen’s public defender filed a motion that declared his defense team had received “less than 30 pages of meaningful discovery.

The result? “On December 1, 2022, his bond was modified to a personal recognizance bond after the presiding judge found that “a discovery violation has occurred and charges were dismissed.”  So he’s out there, and so is the victim.

In another case of sexual assault on a child in September 2020, in the DA’s office’s words, the case was “lost in the system,” but now that they had found it, they recommended that charges be filed.

Canon City man accused of sexually assaulting child

“It’s almost unheard of for law enforcement and the district attorney’s office to not comply with Rule 16,” said Colorado Springs defense attorney Jeremy Loew.” It’s the fundamental constitutional right. You have the right to know what evidence there is against you.”

The Colorado Supreme Court Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel got involved after a complaint was filed in the Morphew case, according to documents received by AVV. AVV was present in the courtroom on multiple occasions when Morphew’s counsel complained of delays in receiving discovery documents and filed motions to dismiss the case.

AVV has been told that of the 12-member board of county commissioners leading the four counties that constitute the 11th Judicial District of Colorado (Chaffee, Fremont, Custer, and Park counties) that the large majority of them say they are very concerned about the situation.

While the topic of recalling the District Attorney has been raised in some corners, such a thing is not just exceedingly rare, but there is little chance of it succeeding. Likely also, few want to risk the political capital that might require.

“These aren’t traffic cases. These are sex assault cases that are getting dismissed because the district attorney isn’t doing their job,” said Loew. “This is extreme. I haven’t seen this in my 15 years of practice.”

Editor’s note: *It could be pointed out that several years ago the AG’s office was pulled in to remove the disgraced disbarred former 12th Judicial District DA Alonzo Payne.