Judge considers whether to remove DA's office from death row appeal
A state district judge is considering whether to recuse the Tarrant County
district attorney's office from the appellate case of death row inmate
Chelsea Richardson because of allegations of misconduct by the prosecutor.
Appellate attorney Bob Ford has alleged that the lead prosecutor on
Richardson's case, Mike Parrish, withheld a report from Richardson's
defense team and interfered with her attorney-client privilege. Ford's
assertion marks the 2nd time that Parrish has been accused of misconduct
on a death-penalty case.
On Friday after a hearing, visiting state District Judge Steven Herod said
he will notify the attorneys of his ruling later.
Richardson, 25, was sentenced to death after being convicted in May 2005
of capital murder in the slayings of her boyfriend's parents, Rick and
Suzanna Wamsley of Mansfield. Officials have said Richardson; her
boyfriend, Andrew Wamsley; and friend Susana Toledano, killed the couple
in 2003 so Andrew Wamsley could inherit his parents $1.65 million estate.
Toledano and Wamsley are serving life sentences.
Richardson, portrayed as the mastermind in the receive the death penalty.
Ford, who is Richardson's court-appointed attorney, later filed a
post-conviction writ of habeas corpus, which basically alleges that
Richardson was illegally convicted because of legal errors and misconduct.
In previous hearings, Ford alleged that Parrish committed a Brady
violation when he failed to turn over Toledano's psychological report to
Richardson's defense team. A Brady violation occurs if a prosecutor
violates a defendant's constitutional rights by withholding evidence
favorable to the defense.
Ford also contends that Parrish failed to reveal to a judge or a grand
jury foreman that he had been indirectly receiving information from her
attorney's legal assistant about the case, interfering with her
On Friday, Ford introduced 2 public documents that outlined Parrishs
problems in another death penalty case.
In December, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction
of Death Row inmate Michael Toney after the Tarrant County district
attorneys office agreed that Parrish failed to turn over to the defense
"no less than 14 documents containing exculpatory or impeaching evidence."
Toney was sentenced to death in 1999 for the 1985 bombing of a Lake Worth
trailer that killed 3 people. The evidence that was withheld cast doubt on
the accounts of Toneys ex-wife and former best friend, who were crucial
witnesses against him. No physical evidence connected Toney to the
Toney's defense attorneys have called the way the case was handled "an
egregious" example of misconduct.
Parrish retired in May 2008, the same month attorneys appealing Toney's
conviction took his deposition.
The district attorney's office voluntarily recused itself from the Toney
case, which is now being handled by the Texas attorney generals office.
During Richardson's hearing Friday, Mallin argued that the Toney case "was
a completely different matter" and is irrelevant to the Richardson case.
Ford replied that he could think of "nothing else more relevant."
A short time later, both sides gave short closing arguments, and Herod,
who is from Eastland County, indicated that he will review the evidence
and notify the attorneys of his ruling.
After the hearing, Mallin, who is handling the case with Steve Conder,
reiterated that Parrish's behavior in another case is immaterial and that
Parrish did not commit a Brady violation in the Richardson case.
"We don't think he [Ford] has proved that this office has any type of
conflict whatsoever," Mallin said.
Ford, who is hoping to eventually win Richardson a new trial or have her
sentence changed to life, pointed out that the district attorney's office
agreed that Parrish acted illegally in Toney's case.
"Nothing can be more relevant than engaging in misconduct and then
continuing to engage in the same type of behavior in the Richardson case,"
(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)