On Monday, October 30, 2023. the Colorado Judicial Department’s Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel filed a formal complaint against 11th Judicial District Attorney Linda Stanley with the Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Colorado Supreme Court. The complaint stems from Stanley’s prosecution of Barry Morphew for the murder of his wife Suzanne Morphew.
The case is entitled “The People of the State of Colorado v. Linda Stanley,” with case no. 23PDJ041.
The charges cited Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.3, 3.6(a), 3.8(f), 5.1(a)(b), 8.4(a)(d) which states:
A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.
A lawyer who is participating in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.
The prosecutor in a criminal case shall refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.
A partner in a law firm and a lawyer who individually or together with other lawyers possesses comparable managerial authority in a law firm shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that all lawyers in the firm conform to the Rules of Professional Conduct.
A lawyer having direct supervisory authority over another lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the other lawyer conforms to the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Prohibits a lawyer from attempting to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assisting or inducing another to do so, or doing so through the acts of another.
Prohibits a lawyer from engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.
The rules of Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.
Suzanne Morphew disappeared mysteriously on Mother’s Day 2020 near Maysville, Colorado. A massive search effort ensued led by the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office. No arrests were made for over a year until Barry Morphew was charged with first-degree murder in May 2021, shortly after Stanley took office.
The complaint alleges a series of missteps by Stanley and her team from 2021 through early 2022.. It claims they repeatedly failed to disclose key evidence to the defense in a timely manner under discovery rules. This included DNA evidence from Suzanne Morphew’s vehicle and critical CODIS DNA database match letters.
The complaint also accuses Stanley of making numerous prejudicial public statements to media and true crime influencers where she discussed details of the ongoing investigation. On a YouTube program, Stanley made over 100 public comments about the case even after Judge Patrick Murphy advised limiting pre-trial publicity.
As a result of these alleged violations, Judge Murphy recused himself in January 2022. The new judge, Ramsey Lama, then ordered a change of venue from Chaffee County and sanctioned the prosecution by striking several expert witnesses due to deficient disclosure filings despite extensions.
The prosecution team, headed by Stanley, struggled with staffing and resources needed to handle the massive volume of evidence in the high-profile murder investigation with no body recovered. Key prosecutors resigned during pre-trial proceedings, leaving the D.A.’s small office scrambling for assistance.
Some of the more serious claims against Stanley include instructing members of her prosecution team to investigate whether Judge Lama had a history of domestic violence based on unfounded internet rumors. appearing to shopping for ways to remove the critical jurist.
If the complaint is proven in a disciplinary hearing, Stanley faces possible sanctions ranging from admonishment to suspension of her law license.
The complaint states:
“WHEREFORE, the People pray that the Respondent be found to have engaged in misconduct under C.R.C.P. 242.9 and the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct as specified above; the Respondent be appropriately disciplined for such misconduct; the Respondent be required to take any other remedial action appropriate under the circumstances; and the Respondent be assessed the costs of this proceeding.”
Linda Stanley was elected as the District Attorney for Chaffee County in November 2020 and took office on January 12, 2021. As District Attorney, Stanley is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases in Chaffee County, which includes the cities of Salida, Buena Vista, and Poncha Springs, as well as the surrounding areas.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.