When a judge declared a mistrial in a Pinal County, Az., murder case last week due to actions of county prosecutors, it marked the third time in a month that ethics concerns were raised about the handling of death-penalty murder cases by the Pinal County Attorney’s Office, reports the Arizona Republic. Superior Court Judge Boyd Johnson declared a mistrial after learning that prosecutors misled him by secretly interviewing, without an attorney present, a defense witness who was facing charges in another case.
The case came days after the State Bar of Arizona opened an inquiry into how and why Pinal County prosecutors ignored a court order by viewing sealed documents in another death-penalty case. A day after the mistrial, prosecutors disclosed that a paralegal in the office “inadvertently” accessed off-limits documents in a third death-penalty case. Court officials and representatives of the County Attorney’s Office blame the missteps on a flawed case-management system, inadequate training and misguided judges. “It’s a bit mind-boggling,” said former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, who served as lead prosecutor for more than 16 years. “There are serious problems in the Pinal County Attorney’s Office.”