After a year and a half of investigation into the 11th Judicial District Attorney (DA) Linda Stanley, the Colorado Attorney Regulation Counsel brought a complaint against Stanley last Monday in the Colorado Supreme Court. While the complaint does not ask for any particular punishment, the seven claims brought against Stanley would be enough for the Supreme Court to revoke the District Attorney’s law license and perhaps permanently prevent Stanley from practicing law again. One of the claims is that Stanley retaliated against a district judge with a criminal domestic violence investigation after she had received a judgment that doomed a murder case she was trying to prosecute.
Nearly all of the claims made against Stanley revolved around an attempt by Stanley to convict Barry Morphew for the alleged murder of his wife, Suzanne Morphew. The disappearance of Suzanne on May 10, 2020, had gained statewide and national attention. After being elected to the DA’s office in November 2020, Stanley decided to pursue a murder claim against Barry even though Suzanne’s body had not been found at the time (Suzanne’s body was found in September of 2023). Proving a murder without a body is a difficult process that requires huge amounts of evidence gathered from cellphone and vehicle location data along with a long list of expert witnesses to interpret that data for a jury. From the beginning, Stanley made a series of mistakes that the Attorney Regulation Council claims violated the rules of professional conduct for attorneys.
Claim one accuses Stanley of not acting with reasonable diligence and promptness. Repeatedly, Stanley’s prosecution team failed to provide evidence to Barry Morphew’s defense team. Known as Rule 16, this rule protects the accused’s constitutional rights, and the government must supply all available evidence that it has gathered regardless if it has been requested. This provides a trial that is fair. Repeatedly, Stanley ignored orders from the courts to provide evidence to the defense. In one instance, Stanley withheld evidence that showed DNA in Suzanne’s vehicle that might have come from a different, but unknown, person who was linked with a different sexual assault case. By withholding this evidence, Barry claims his rights were violated, and he was held without bond in jail for months because Stanley had withheld this key evidence. Barry is currently suing the 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office for $15 million in a civil rights case over these Rule 16 violations.
Claims two and three focus on violating rules regarding pretrial publicity. Stanley repeatedly and inappropriately spoke about the details of the case with online YouTube channels and media outlets. In a series of text messages, she talked about the details of the case with a show called “Profiling Evil” and “True Crime with Julez” and went on the shows several times, providing information that would cause public bias before the trial. In addition, she argued publicly in the comment sections of these shows in ways that showed clear attempts to garner public support before the trial had begun. Because of these actions, the case had to be moved from Chaffee to Fremont County. All these actions gave rise to heightening public condemnation of the accused.
Claim four states that not only did Stanley disregard the rules for attorney professional conduct but encouraged her staff to also disregard those rules, even pressuring them on several occasions to break the rules when they protested. During her time as DA, there have been over six resignations of attorneys over inter-office conflicts.
Claim five is the most serious accusation. Because of Stanley’s repeated violations of Rule 16, District Judge Ramsey Lama excluded 15 of the 16 expert witnesses that Stanley’s prosecution team was planning on using in the jury trial. This effectively doomed Stanley’s case against Barry Morphew. But instead of accepting Judge Lama’s ruling, she encouraged her prosecution team to try and dig up dirt on the judge. According to the complaint, “Stanley sent the prosecution team a petition written by Julez Wolf, which claimed, ‘the ex-wife of Judge Lama is an advocate of Suzanne Morphew and victims of domestic abuse.’” Stanley continued texting the other prosecutors, encouraging them to investigate whether Judge Lama ever abused his ex-wife, Iris Lama. The reason Stanley decided to do this was rooted in the belief that Judge Lama was trying to protect Barry Morphew. She texted her team, “…we couldn’t understand Judge Lama’s orders that were so egregious against us, and he’s normally not like that. And we were discussing what’s going on, and those two came together. And I said, let’s see if we can get somebody to interview her to see if there was something going on or if she suspects that he is trying to get back at her, essentially, in almost a passive-aggressive way by making this case impossible to prosecute… So we wanted to see if she would say anything to us about any of that or if these actions by the judge may be almost a passive-aggressive move at her.”
In March of 2022 Stanley called Commander Walker at the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office and asked him to start an investigation into Judge Lama regarding domestic violence. Walker refused, saying that there was no source to start an investigation. Stanley would not stop and enlisted her own investigator to dig into Lama’s past by interviewing his ex-wife. Judge Lama’s ex-wife talked to the investigator and said that there was never any domestic violence during their relationship. With this attempt at retaliation failed, Stanley filed to dismiss the murder case against Morphew.
The last two claims again revolve around Stanley commenting on other cases that harmed the accused before a trial had begun. In one case, she stated to a TV station that one of the parties was dating someone else “just to get laid,” which violated the same rules of conduct as had taken place during the Morphew case.
Stanley had already been sanctioned by the Colorado Supreme Court before being elected as DA when she failed to let a client know that she had taken another job. When the client asked what was going on, Stanley tried to take him to small claims court for not paying for services that she had not rendered. In addition, in June of 2022, during the Morphew trial, Stanley had her law license suspended by the Colorado Supreme Court because she had failed to take her required continuing education courses. For several weeks, a temporary DA was appointed while Stanley scrambled to meet the requirements for the license to be reinstated.
During her campaign, Stanley was found to have violated Colorado campaign finance laws and was forced to pay a small fine for working deals for advertising without disclosing it to the Colorado Secretary of State.
As the Tribune went to press on Tuesday, it was not known when the case against Stanley was scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court.
– Jordan Hedberg