11th Judicial District Attorney remains silent as another case heads to sanctions hearing
FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- The 11th Judicial District Attorney's Office remains under fire. Another first-degree murder case is in jeopardy after prosecutors failed again to turn over evidence properly.
Joseph Tippet is accused of shooting his father, William Tippet, in the back of the head in January. He was charged with first-degree murder. But for more than two months, the defense only received one-tenth of the evidence from the 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Now, he could walk free.
This is a direct violation of 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.”
“Mr. Tippit’s sitting in the jail, remorseful as ever, me sitting on my hands, not able to work the case, and in the meantime, constitutional protections are being trampled,” said Adam Tunink, the defense attorney for Tippet, during a hearing Wednesday.
The DA’s office was given a week to turn over the evidence, which they did to the tune of more than 1,100 items — about 85% of the discovery, said Magistrate Judge Michael Meyrick during Wednesday’s hearing.
But Meyrick is concerned the discovery delays are systemic. 13 Investigates found at least 33 cases where the DA’s office violated Rule 16. This is more than one case per month since Linda Stanley took office in January 2021.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Meyrick directly asked David Little, one of the deputy district attorneys for the 11th Judicial District, if the delay in handing over evidence to the defense was a systemic problem.
“Your Honor, I can't comment on that…That issue, I think, would be more necessarily inclined or discussed in front of Judge Turner if she were inclined to impose sanctions,” Little responded.
Tunink, Tippet’s defense attorney, said the delay in discovery is clearly a systemic problem.
“We continue to circle around the issue and not actually address it. It is a problem,” Tunink said. “The court asked if it's a systemic problem. I struggle to see how it is not.”
Due to the concerns, Judge Meyrick ordered the case to go through a sanctions hearing, putting yet another murder case at risk of being dismissed. A sanctions hearing could result in a lesser bond, fewer charges, a complete dismissal of the case, or no penalties at all.
Of the 33 cases where the DA’s office violated Rule 16, 13 Investigates confirmed five were entirely dismissed. Those include two child sexual assault cases, a murder case, a child porn case, and a strangulation case.
“We're not talking about traffic offenses,” said Tina Wilson, a friend of the Tippet family. “We're talking about big cases — murderers, rapists. You're held at a higher expectation. It's your job to get that information to the courts immediately.”
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Stanley remains absent from the courthouse. Our team has reached out to her multiple times, and she's yet to respond to 13 Investigates’ continuous calls and emails for comment.
13 Investigates confronted Little after Wednesday’s hearing.
“This is standard Victim Rights Act protocol and I think they're doing a good job working with our office as serious cases are taken very seriously,” Little said. “Otherwise, these are pending cases and we can't comment further.”
When asked about the discovery violations and the risk it poses to high-level cases, Little said to contact “the elected official Linda Stanley.”
When asked why she wasn’t in court today, Little said, “Unfortunately, I cannot comment any further on this case. We do need to speak with victims and we need to work on this case more.”
The Tippet family and their friends said Stanley needs to be recalled.
“She's been letting a lot of cases go,” said Scott Wilson, a friend of the Tippet family. “She hasn't been doing her job very well. If there's somebody that needs to be recalled, it's her.”
Despite family and friends not wanting any sanctions so the court case can move along, they said the discovery violations within the 11th Judicial District are “definitely a problem” and concerning to the community.
“All of us, every one of us in this community could be a victim,” Tina said. “With the cases and the criminals that have been released or the charges that have been lowered, we're just not getting justice”
With evidence being handed over to the defense, the Tippet family said there’s an improvement from the DA’s office and they hope the case can move forward and “bring justice.”
“Somebody was murdered and you have family members that are suffering, we need to seek justice. Not for us, but for Bill,” Scott said, referencing the victim William Tippet.
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