Lawyers for missing woman’s husband want DA to be punished
Apr 18, 2023, 3:00 PM
(Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP, File)
Lawyers for a Colorado man once charged with murder and still considered a suspect in the presumed death of his missing wife are asking for prosecutors to be disciplined for what they called intentionally withholding evidence in a bid to convict him.
Barry Morphew’s lawyers allege in a complaint made public Tuesday that District Attorney Linda Stanley and six prosecutors in her office pursued “a political agenda of locking up Mr. Morphew in response to a media frenzy that prosecutors themselves helped create” after the 2020 disappearance of Suzanne Morphew.
The complaint was filed last month with Colorado’s Office of Regulatory Counsel, nearly a year after Stanley’s office requested that the charges against Morphew be dropped shortly before he was to have faced trial. He had also been charged with tampering with a human body, tampering with physical evidence, possession of a dangerous weapon and attempting to influence a public servant.
In their complaint, Morphew’s lawyers are asking for the prosecutors to face punishment up to and including disbarment. They said a decision was made to arrest Morphew in 2021 even though DNA from an unknown male was found in Suzanne Morphew’s SUV. They also cited Stanley’s appearances on true crime podcasts such as “Profiling Evil” to talk about the case.
“She shouldn’t be allowed to prosecute anyone else,” one of Morphew’s lawyers, Iris Eytan, said of Stanley during a news conference called to announce the complaint. She also said she was launching a non-profit group to fight prosecutorial misconduct.
The complaint was filed last month with Colorado’s Office of Regulatory Counsel. The office had opened an investigation into Stanley last year because of complaints arising from the Morphew prosecution, and the lawyers’ complaint will now become part of that investigation, attorney regulation counsel Jessica Yates said.
She said she could not disclose whose concerns had prompted the investigation.
Last year, Stanley’s office asked a judge to allow the case against Morphew to be dropped after he barred prosecutors from using most of their key witnesses for repeatedly failing to following rules for turning over evidence in the man’s favor, including DNA evidence linked to sexual assault cases in other states that raised the possibility of a different person being involved. The judge allowed the case to be dismissed without prejudice, which gives prosecutors the ability to file charges against Morphew again later.
Stanley was in court on Tuesday, according to her office, and did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment. However, another prosecutor in the office, Mark Hurlbert, who is one of those named in the complaint, said he had not seen it yet.
“We will fight it vigorously because we did nothing wrong,” he said.
Morphew is still considered a suspect in the case, Hurlbert said, and he added that prosecutors will keep an “open mind” as the investigation into what happened continues.
Last year, Stanley said the exclusion of the witnesses was only part of the reason she asked for the charges to be dropped. She emphasized that investigators needed more time to find Suzanne Morphew’s body, saying for the first time that investigators believe her remains are in an area covered deep in snow near the couple’s former home in the southern Colorado mountains.
However, at a later court hearing, Hurlbert told a judge that they were wrong about being close to finding the body, KUSA-TV reported in October.
The hearing was held to discuss returning Morphew’s property seized as evidence but prosecutors argued against that, Eytan said, in case those belongings are needed as part of the investigation some day.