Judge delays Phillips trial as new lawyer joins team

2012-05-09T00:00:00Z 2014-09-05T15:28:12Z Judge delays Phillips trial as new lawyer joins teamKim Smith Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 09, 2012 12:00 am  • 

A former Tucson socialite's murder trial has been pushed from October to April 2013 to give her new attorney time to prepare.

Last month, Pima County Legal Defender Isabel Garcia removed Pamela Phillips' lead counsel, Peter Herberg, from the case because of friction between Herberg and Judge Richard Fields. She later named Paul Eckerstrom as Herberg's replacement.

On Monday, Fields said he may have been overly optimistic last month when he moved Phillips' June trial to October.

Fields also gave Eckerstrom and co-counsel Michael Carrillo permission to visit Phillips whenever they like.

On Feb. 9, Fields told Herberg and Carrillo they would be allowed to visit Phillips for just 60 minutes per month while she is in a restoration-to-competency program at the jail.

Phillips was indicted in 2008 on charges that she orchestrated the Nov. 1, 1996, death of her former husband. Tucson businessman Gary Triano died in a pipe-bomb explosion outside La Paloma Country Club. The man accused of building and detonating the bomb, Ronald Young, is serving two life sentences.

Herberg had filed several motions accusing the Pima County Attorney's Office of hiding evidence he contends will show Triano was killed by the Mafia. He also argued Fields has proven by his rulings he is biased against Phillips.

Herberg twice mounted unsuccessful attempts to have Fields removed from the case.

The last attempt came after the February hearing when Fields limited the contact between Phillips and Herberg. The judge accused Herberg of engaging in a "blatant and intentional" attempt to interfere with the restoration process.

Herberg twice appealed the decision by presiding Pima County Superior Court Judge Sarah Simmons to leave Fields on the case, but the Arizona Court of Appeals decided last week not to look into either decision.

During Monday's hearing, Fields also granted the Legal Defender's office permission to speak with officials in the restoration program to resolve unspecified issues. Fields' decision came after a lengthy discussion with attorneys in his chambers.

Phillips was declared mentally unfit to stand trial in December and ordered into a restoration program.

Phillips has told at least one doctor she believes someone has been watching and listening to her for the past seven to eight years, and she believes she has had tracking devices placed in her neck and passport.

She contends plugs inserted into her brain have allowed people to both track her and control her body.

In addition, Phillips has described feeling as though waves of energy or electricity have flowed through her body at times. At other times, she feels like she's exploding or imploding.

Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or kimsmith@azstarnet.com

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