UPDATE | Jan. 5, 2022 — Judge Ramsey L. Lama has been appointed to the People v. Barry Lee Morphew case.
CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. — On Thursday morning, Chaffee County Chief Judge Patrick W. Murphy announced he had granted the motion to disqualify himself from the Barry Morphew case due to a long-term friendship with a possible witness's attorney.
Barry Morphew was arrested on May 5, 2021 on multiple charges, including first-degree murder, almost a year after Suzanne Morphew was first reported missing in Chaffee County. He also faces charges of tampering with physical evidence, attempting to influence a public servant, tampering with a deceased human body, and possession of a dangerous weapon. In a separate case, he was charged with forgery after he allegedly submitted a mail ballot in his wife's name in last year's election. At the time of Barry Morphew's arrest, Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze also announced that authorities did not believe Suzanne Morphew was alive and were not searching for any other suspects. To date, her body has not been found.
In late September 2021, a woman who was suspected of having a relationship with Barry Morphew was arrested on a trespassing charge after allegedly entering the property of where Barry Morphew and Suzanne Morphew used to live. The woman was later arrested and identified as Shoshona L. Darke of Salida. She faces a charge of second-degree trespassing.
On Oct. 13, 2021, Judge Murphy disqualified himself from the case of The People vs. Shoshona Darke.
Darke's alleged relationship with Barry Morphew was mentioned in his arrest affidavit.
Judge Murphy disqualified himself because, as written in court documents, one of the individuals representing Shoshona has a 40-year friendship with the judge, which included their time in high school.
At a hearing on Dec. 14, 2021, the court discussed the possibility of calling Darke as a witness in the Morphew case. If she was called, her attorney would also be present.
According to Colorado Revised Statute 16-6-201, a judge would be disqualified to hear or try a case if they are related to the defendant or an attorney involved in the case, or if they are in any way interested or prejudiced with respect to the case or the parties or counsel.
It reads that any judge who knows of circumstances where they should be disqualified should do so on their own accord.
The judge explored the option of disqualifying himself for the portion of the case involving Darke, but ultimately did not decide to pursue that route as caselaw didn't support that approach, according to the documents.
It's not yet clear who will take Judge Murphy's position in the Morphew case. The district administrator will appoint a replacement.