11th Judicial DA’s office under investigation, 33 cases affected by evidence violations
FREMONT COUNTY, Colo (KRDO) -- The 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office is under state investigation following two years of dozens of court-documented evidence violations which have led to dismissals in murder and sex assault cases.
13 Investigates uncovered dozens of cases where the DA's office violated court rules in place to ensure a fair trial and prosecution.
Court documents detail a pattern by the 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office of violating Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 16, which states “the prosecution shall discover to the defense all materials and information within its possession or control.”
It points to dozens of different cases where the office failed to provide evidence to the defense in a timely manner, dating back to February 2021.
District Attorney Linda Stanley is in charge of the office and the top prosecutor of criminal cases in Fremont, Custer, Chaffee, and Park Counties.
Court documents show violations in at least 33 cases prosecuted by her office, some of which are first-degree murder and child sex assault cases. In all 33 cases, the DA's office failed to properly turn over evidence by court-ordered deadlines.
In at least four felony-level cases, all charges were either dismissed or reduced to a lesser charge.
One of those cases was connected to the high-profile murder case against Chaffee County man Barry Morphew, accused of murdering his wife Suzanne. She went missing on Mother's Day in 2020. He was charged by the DA's office for her murder in 2021.
Morphew’s case was dismissed after repeated discovery violations leading to the prosecution’s expert witness being barred from testifying.
His attorney, Iris Eytan, said she believes the district attorney’s office purposefully withheld evidence from the defense, including DNA, and misrepresented the truth.
“Either they don't know the rules, which that means that they're incompetent, or they have to know the rules because judges, just like in the Morphew matter, narrowly dismissed a case because of how egregious their discovery violations were,” said Eytan.
Outside of the evidence violations in Morphew's case, Eytan also highlighted the issues that the pattern of behavior has on risk to public safety.
"That offender that might have a lot of evidence against them walks away because of the D.A. like Linda Stanley doesn't comply with her mandatory obligations that are in black and white," Eytan said.
Right now, several defense attorneys are requesting that six active criminal cases get dismissed. Those attorneys are asking for sanctions or motions to dismiss charges because of violations.
13 Investigates obtained court documents from two of those cases — a first-degree murder charge and a sexual assault on a child case.
“That offender that that might have a lot of evidence against them walks away because a D.A. like Linda Stanley doesn't comply with her mandatory obligations that are black and white,” Eytan said.
Arresting documents state that 36-year-old Joseph Tippet told Fremont County Sheriff's detectives that he shot his dad, who was found with two gunshot wounds to the back of the head in his home.
Attorneys for Tippet allege they have not received enough evidence to formulate a defense in the case. On Mar. 6, his attorney filed a motion to dismiss a first-degree murder charge as a sanction of the attorney’s office for violating a court order.
According to the motion, on Jan. 18, the court ordered that all discovery be produced no later than Jan. 28. A day after the deadline, the defense received two discovery packets, with another four packets provided after the court-ordered deadline. This is despite the evidence being created before the deadline, according to the motion.
In at least four of the 33 cases, where Tippet’s attorney said Stanley’s office made evidence violations, charges were dismissed, including two involving accused sexual predators and two alleged murderers.
Brandon Allen’s case was one of the cases dismissed. He was charged with sexual assault on a child in a position of trust in October 2022.
Allen's defense attorney claimed Stanley's office didn’t provide them with the following evidentiary pieces: multiple forensic and recorded interviews by Florence PD, body-worn camera video from the investigating detective, and reports from DHS (Department of Human Services) in Cañon City. As a result, Allen's charges were dismissed.
Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper said the violations by the district attorney's office have had a serious impact on the victims of dismissed serious criminal cases.
"Those people aren’t getting any justice," Sheriff Cooper said. "In fact, they are being re-victimized by the office of the district attorney. If I was to give her a grade, it would be an F.”
13 Investigates reached out to 11th Judicial District Attorney Linda Stanley about her office’s violations and the active investigation by Colorado’s Attorney Regulation Counsel into multiple complaints. She never responded.
13 Investigates also contacted the sheriffs and county commissioners within her judicial district, including Fremont, Chaffee, and Custer Counties. Chaffee got back to us saying it didn’t have a comment.
The Attorney General of Colorado declined to comment about the investigation.
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