Legal Ethics

State Dawdling Spurs Victory for Ex-Lawyer Accused in Law Partner’s Beating Death

Citing a “culture of discovery abuses” by prosecutors, a Missouri judge has barred all of the state’s evidence against a former lawyer accused of beating his law partner to death in 2000.

Judge Roger Prokes said he was imposing the extraordinary sanction because prosecutors had failed to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defendant, Richard Buchli II, in a case of “severe misconduct,” according to the Kansas City Star and “A decade is enough time,” Prokes wrote. “The rules have been ignored, this court has been ignored and judicial resources have been squandered. The judiciary cannot wait while the state dawdles.”

Prokes issued the ruling as Buchli was set to be retried for the murder of his law partner, Richard Armitage, at their law offices in downtown Kansas City. Evidence withheld included a daylong surveillance tape that would have shown Buchli would have little time to murder his law partner, clean up and go to lunch, the Star says. The tape also suggested that a key witness may have committed perjury.

Prosecutors had argued blood splatters on Buchli’s clothing proved his guilt, while the defense said it showed he had tried to revive his partner. His original conviction was overturned because of the state’s failure to turn over evidence.

Buchli, who is free on bond, spent five years in prison “for an unconstitutionally obtained conviction,” Prokes said. He said there was a “culture of discovery abuses” at the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, and cited three other cases.

The state plans to appeal.

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