The attorney representing a Colorado man once accused of his wife’s disappearance and murder wants the district attorney and the charges against him investigated for ethics violations.
Barry Morphew’s wife, Suzanne Morphew, disappeared during a bike ride on Mother’s Day 2020. She has not been seen or heard from since. Her husband was arrested in May 2021 on charges related to her suspected death, including first-degree murder, tampering with evidence and attempting to influence a public servant.
Last April, the judge overseeing the case dropped the case against Barry Morphew – at the prosecutor’s request – even though law enforcement claimed at the time that they were “close” to finding her body.
Apparently that wasn’t true – and several other problems with the Morphew investigation arose throughout the process leading up to the dismissal of the charges against her husband.
More law and crime coverage: ‘I love my wife and I want her found’: Colorado man Barry Morphew speaks out after state drops murder case against him
On March 29, Morphew’s attorney, Iris Eytan, filed an 83-page complaint with the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation, asking that 11th Judicial District Attorney Linda Stanley and the other prosecutors who worked on her client’s case be investigated and ultimately punished.
“Rather than honoring their special ethical obligations to the prosecution to protect the presumption of innocence and to preserve and enhance the integrity and high standards of the legal profession, these prosecutors demonstrated dishonesty and pursued a political agenda in locking up Mr Morphew in response to a media report. madness, which the prosecutors themselves helped to create and maintain,’ it is claimed in the case.
According to the disciplinary complaint, the DA’s office “excused any evidence of innocence, concealed positive evidence, fabricated evidence and statements, and allowed witnesses to testify falsely.”
“The judges overseeing the case identified the prosecutors’ numerous flagrant violations of court orders and discovery rules, including providing false information to the court,” the complaint states. “After numerous court admonitions spanning nine months, the prosecution has done nothing to correct, correct or change its conduct.”
Earlier last April, despite scolding prosecutors and other law enforcement officials for “consistent” discovery violations, District Judge Ramsey Lama declined to dismiss the case at the defense’s request.
But in a lengthy 20-page document criticizing the prosecution, the judge noted that highly relevant DNA evidence had been essentially withheld from the defense and during various court hearings.
The DNA, which turned out to belong to an unknown man, was definitely not Barry Morphew’s and had been found on several items at the crime scene — including on Suzanne Morphew’s bicycle, bicycle helmet and inside her car, according to the state crime lab’s forensic analysis, Lama noted.
Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Agent Joseph Cahill believed DNA found in the car “belonged to suspects who may have committed the crime,” the judge noted. On top of that, the DNA turned up in CODIS, a nationwide DNA database maintained by the FBI.
“Notably, as of May 4, 2021, law enforcement had still not determined the source of the unknown male DNA found throughout the crime scene,” Lama wrote. “The affidavit failed to inform the judge of said DNA and that Barry Morphew was excluded as the source.”
Far from complaining:
The truth about the DNA evidence was only revealed after several hearings and court orders to release positive evidence to the defense. The evidence, which had been withheld by prosecutors ahead of the preliminary hearings, slowly seeped out over the next few months, after the critical preliminary hearings and after Mr Morphew was locked in a prison cell for five months. The hidden evidence was highly exculpatory: As early as December 2020 – five months before Mr. Morphew’s arrest – the DA’s office and law enforcement learned that the unknown male DNA recovered from Suzanne’s vehicle matched that from unsolved sex crimes around the country . This highly exculpatory information was withheld, not included in the warrant affidavit, withheld from the judge who signed the warrant, and not mentioned by the prosecution in preliminary hearings.
The document also claims prosecutors told “falsehoods” that “became the legend and history of the case,” prompting police to dig into theories they knew were wrong.
And the document claims the DA’s office did all this voluntarily.
“[T]The real threat to the public remains as long as they are able to continue the practice of law without any significant discipline,” the complaint states. “This is not a series of oopsies or mistakes; there were too many not to be willful, intentional and/or a knowing pattern of discovery and ethical violations. These prosecutors still believe they did nothing wrong. They will continue to to violate their ethical obligations, harm other people, until and unless they [Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel] disciplining them.”
The filing advises investigators to “harshly” discipline the law enforcement agencies involved in the Morphew case.
“It is our belief that there is absolute evidence that the District Attorney-elect, Linda Stanley, her then-DA investigator Alex Walker, Deputy Director Jeffrey Lindsey, Aaron Pembleton and all the deputies subsequently hired or contracted to engage in prosecuting this case (including Deputy District Attorneys Mark Hurlbert, Robert Weiner, Daniel Edwards and Grant Grosgebauer) committed ethical violations that warranted severe discipline and disbarment,” the suit alleges. “This type of unethical conduct cannot afford to go unpunished in this state or country.”
Eytan held a press conference on Tuesday, where he criticized the accusers in the case in increasingly harsh terms.
“He was kept for five months in a cage based on information that was not true,” Eytan said. “She has a license to practice law that is more powerful than most other people in the country, she should have to be held accountable for that. So yeah, I don’t think she should have the right to prosecute other people .”
In response, Stanley complained that Eytan held a press conference before her office received notice of the complaint.
“All individuals, whether facing a potential complaint against their professional license or facing criminal charges, are entitled to due process,” the DA told Denver-based Fox affiliate KDVR. “Because we have no information about the complaint alleged by Ms. Eytan, we cannot comment at this time.”
But Jessica Yates, the executive director of OARC, told KDVR that her office received the complaint and would investigate it.
Stanley has been disciplined before.
In 2019, she was criticized for failing to keep a client reasonably informed while in private practice during a civil case.
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