Legal Ethics

Govt's Discussion of Plea with Represented Murder Defendant Results in Case Dismissal, Reprimands


Errors by the prosecution in pursuing a possible plea deal directly with a represented murder defendant resulted in the dismissal of the Apache County, Ariz., case, reports the National Organization of Bar Counsel in its “Case of the Month” column.

Plus, the county’s two top prosecutors were reprimanded, both for authorizing investigators to discuss a plea deal directly with the defendant, without his lawyer present, and, in the case of the Michael B. Whiting, who headed the office, sending out a press release (PDF) criticizing the judge for dismissing the case against the defendant and implying that she had done so without legal authority.

Whiting reportedly blamed his former chief deputy, Martin E. Brannan, who was also reprimanded for violating the no-contact rule with defendants who are represented by legal counsel. Brannon, according to Whiting, reached a mistaken interpretation of no-contact rule that Whiting said led him to believe the presentation of the plea offer by investigators from his office would be appropriate.

A State Bar of Arizona complaint (PDF) gives further details about the allegations made against the two prosecutors.

The White Mountain Independent (sub. req.) also has a story.

Hat tip: Legal Profession Blog.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “A Murder Defendant Goes Free, an Ethics Complaint Is Filed, and County Atty Blames Deputy”

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