Apache County Attorney blames his Chief Deputy, former La Paz County Attorney Brannan
A formal bar complaint has been filed against Apache County Attorney Michael Whiting and former La Paz County Attorney Martin Brannan. The complaint alleges that they violated ethical standards and engaged in prosecutorial misconduct in a murder case. The Arizona Republic reports:
According to the complaint, Whiting and Martin Brannan, his chief deputy, directed a pair of county attorney investigators in February to confront defendant Joseph D. Roberts in jail and pressure him to plead guilty without advising Roberts’ lawyer of the meeting. Roberts allegedly was told that he could face the death penalty and that his wife would be charged with felonies unless he agreed to waive his legal rights.
Roberts declined the request and Superior Court Judge Donna Grimsley later found the conduct so egregious that all charges were dismissed.
Whiting said Tuesday he merely acceded to the legal conclusions reached by Brannan, who believed that contacting a defendant without notice to legal counsel would be permissible.
“If the chief deputy says it’s OK, I guess it’s OK,” Whiting said. “I didn’t go research it.”
Brannan, who resigned from the County Attorney’s Office last year, could not be reached for comment.
The Bar complaint accuses the two lawyers of violating four professional standards, including improper communication and conduct prejudicial to justice. They could face various disciplinary sanctions if found culpable by a panel of the Arizona Supreme Court.
Brannan has been criticized for his conduct before. In 2007, while La Paz County Attorney, he was accused of sending an email to State Rep. Trish Groe four days after she was arrested under suspicion of drunken driving, expressing his political support and saying the two needed to talk about pending legislation in which he had an interest. Brannan said it was not his intent to imply that he would treat her DUI case favorably if she helped him in the Legislature. The following week he sent her case to be prosecuted in Yuma County, citing conflict of interest.
Brannan served as La Paz County Attorney from 2005 until 2008.