A judge has disqualified the Pinal County Attorney’s Office from prosecuting a murder case.
Gila County Superior Court Judge Peter J. Cahill, working in a capacity as a visiting judge, ordered the Pinal County Attorney’s Office off the murder case of Arizona Department of Corrections inmate Richard Tray Wilson after it was revealed prosecutors viewed case documents that a judge had previously ordered sealed.
Wilson was convicted in Maricopa County in 2008 of first-degree murder. While serving a life sentence he allegedly murdered fellow inmate Nolan Pierce. The state seeks the death penalty in that case.
The July ruling says a paralegal working with Deputy Pinal County Attorney Richard Wintory used a computer at the county clerk’s office to look up the case file. When the paralegal came across documents marked “sealed” the paralegal opened the documents, which contained letterhead from Wilson’s attorney stating “Ex-parte motion for victim’s medical and mental records.”
The paralegal also printed the documents and gave them to attorneys in the Pinal County Attorney’s Office, including Wintory.
Wintory previously worked for the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Arizona Attorney General.
Wilson’s attorney had sought Pierce’s medical records as part of its mitigation investigation.
In his ruling, Cahill said members of the Pinal County Attorney’s Office had willfully disregarded a court order.
“The County Attorney’s office, including high level supervisory staff, apparently believes that when a judge has made a ‘wrong ruling,’ the County Attorney’s office may decide whether to comply with court orders,” Cahill wrote.
Cahill did not agree with Wilson’s defense that the entire case should be thrown out, and instead reaffirmed a November trial date.
Prosecutors with another county attorney's office or the attorney general's office will handle the case.
The Arizona Bar Association had only recently reinstated Wintory, whose license to practice law was suspended.