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Disciplinary complaint filed against district attorney for alleged misconduct in Morphew case

The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel alleges DA Linda Stanley launched a domestic violence investigation into the judge after unfavorable rulings.
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Posted at 6:16 PM, Oct 31, 2023
and last updated 2024-02-05 19:32:20-05

DENVER — A disciplinary complaint filed Monday alleges 11th Judicial District Attorney Linda Stanley violated the state's professional code of conduct for attorneys during the initial prosecution of Barry Morphew.

Barry's wife, Suzanne Morphew, was reported missing in May 2020 out of Chaffee County. Barry was arrested on May 5, 2021 on multiple charges, including first-degree murder.

Prosecutors argued that Barry discovered his wife was having an affair, then killed her, disposed of her body and staged a bike crash in a rural area.

Chaffee County Judge Patrick Murphy ruled on Sept. 17, 2021 that the case would go to trial. He also set a cash-only bond for $500,000.

Then-District Judge Ramsey Lama ruled on Feb. 1, 2022, Barry could not receive a fair trial in Chaffee County, and the case was moved to Fremont County. The 11th Judicial District includes Fremont, Chaffee, Park and Custer counties.

On April 19, 2022, a Fremont County judge granted the prosecution's motion to dismiss the murder case against Barry. The motion asked the court to dismiss the charges without prejudice, meaning he could be tried again if prosecutors refile charges.

In the 20-page complaint filed Monday, the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel alleges Stanley interacted with Mike King, who hosts a YouTube channel devoted to true crime, from April 2021 to August 2022. The interactions include text exchanges, interviews with King and video comments Stanley allegedly made on King’s YouTube channel before, during and after Barry’s prosecution.

During a May 2021 press conference announcing the arrest of Barry, Stanley told the media gathered at the Chaffee County Courthouse, "I am sure you are all aware and know that we can not talk about any open or active investigation, and that is per the rules of professional conduct that we will abide by."

According to state authorities, Stanley defied that code of conduct and had the following interactions with King:

23. On May 15, 2021, when Mike King of “Profiling Evil” texted [Stanley] asking her for more information about the short rifle Barry Morphew allegedly used to kill Suzanne Morphew, as had been identified in the Complaint, [Stanley] replied, “Um, I will see what I can do. Only because it’s you, Mike.”

24. When King texted [Stanley] and asked her if perhaps Mr. Morphew strangled Suzanne in the hot tub, [Stanley] replied, “We know it wasn’t bloody. The hot tub was drained with ‘crust’ around the drain areas indicating it had not been used in a long time. But keep on spinning ideas in your brain!”

25. When King texted [Stanley] and asked her about Suzanne Morphew’s car keys, [Stanley] replied, “We think she always left her purse in the car.”

26. In June 2021, when King texted [Stanley] to comment about a new video on Barry Morphew, [Stanley] replied, “I’m great! Thanks!! We got him. No worries.”

The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel also alleges Stanley conducted a domestic violence investigation into Judge Lama following unfavorable rulings.

The DA allegedly reached out to several prosecutors, "encouraging them to investigate whether Judge Lama ever abused his ex-wife, Iris Lama." Iris was described as "an advocate of Suzanne Morphew and victims of Domestic abuse."

State authorities said Stanley decided to interview Iris because "…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."

The Chaffee County Sheriff's Office reportedly refused to investigate since Stanley "had no good source for the investigation." Stanley eventually enlisted her own investigator to interview Iris, the complaint states.

The investigator met with Iris on April 15, 2022. According to the complaint, Iris told the investigator there was never any domestic abuse in the relationship, and Judge Lama never told her anything about the Morphew case. Stanley filed the motion to dismiss in the Morphew case four days later.

"[Stanley] used her position and office’s resources in a manner intended to prevent others, including Judge Lama, from effectively performing their roles in the criminal justice system," the complaint alleges.

Barry’s attorney, Iris Eytan, filed a complaint in March 2023 with the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel asking for discipline for Stanley and the other prosecutors. The 83-page request for investigation states that judges overseeing identified violations of court orders and discovery rules, including "providing false information to the court."

The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel alleged similar conduct, including withholding evidence from the defense and a perceived failure to send discovery to the defense team in a timely manner.

On Sept. 27, 2023, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) announced that the remains of Suzanne Morphew were found in Saguache County.

CBI said human remains were discovered during a search in connection with an unrelated investigation on Sept. 22 around the Town of Moffat. The remains were positively identified by the El Paso County Coroner on Sept. 27 as belonging to Suzanne Morphew, CBI said.

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