Attorneys for accused double murderer Christopher Terry have asked a Pima County Superior Court judge to disqualify the defense team of a co-defendant.
Terry, along with Kyle Drattlo and girlfriend Brianna Harding, stands accused of killing Drattlo’s elderly grandparents at their midtown home in July 2013.
Although charged together, cases against the three have been severed in anticipation that each defendants’ attorneys would present theories that implicate the other defendants I the killing of Erskin Fulgham, 87, and his wife Mary Fulgham, 83.
Terry’s attorneys, Darleen Edminson-O’Brien and Todd E. Hale, want Harding’s lawyers off the case because of what they perceive as a conflict of interest.
“The risk to Mr. Terry in a capital case is enormous,” Hale told Pima County Superior Court Judge Scott Rash on Tuesday.
Hale said one of Harding’s current public defenders, Walt Palser, once represented Terry as a juvenile. He and Edminson-O’Brien are concerned that Palser and the Pima County Public Defender’s office still have access to a 2002 case that contains documents that could be used to benefit Harding to Terry’s detriment.
The specific documents are mental-health evaluations conducted in connection with a 2002 case when Terry was a juvenile. Doctors ultimately found Terry mentally incompetent to stand trial in the case.
Terry has an extensive juvenile history and spent many of his formative pre-teen and teen years in group homes.
Arizona Daily Star reporter Kimberly Matas reported in August that Terry attacked two female teachers and a group-home worker in 2002.
He attacked another woman with a broom handle at a group home in 2004 and attempted to strangle a group home staffer with a rope in 2006. He also stabbed workers with a broken tile and a fork heated with a cigarette lighter.
“They have previous knowledge about his mental health,” Hale said, speculating Harding’s attorney’s could use the information in an effort to gain a favorable plea agreement for their client.
Rash disagreed, saying the defendants’ cases have been severed and Terry’s juvenile cases are long settled.
“I don’t see anything that would disqualify the public defender’s office,” Rash said.
But requiring Harding to get new attorneys, the judge said, could present problems for her case.
Palser said he doesn’t know if the public defender still has the mental health reports and furthermore had little memory of representing Terry in 2002.
Hale said the public defender’s office representation of Harding could stand in violation of Arizona State Bar ethical rules regarding conflicts of interest and duty to former clients.
Rash said he would take the arguments into consideration. No ruling has been made.
Read more about the crimes here.