State regulator seeks discipline against Chaffee County District Attorney in Morphew case

Missing Woman Colorado
In this Thursday, May 6, 2021, image from video, Barry Morphew, center, appears in court in Salida, Colo. Morphew was accused of killing his wife, who disappeared in 2020. The charges against him were dropped in April 2022 before a trial could begin.

Updated at 8:15 p.m. on October 31st, 2023.

The office in charge of regulating Colorado lawyers is seeking discipline against the district attorney of Colorado's 11th Judicial District.

In a court filing this week, the state’s attorney regulation counsel argued that DA Linda Stanley failed to properly share evidence with the defense in her now-abandoned prosecution of Barry Morphew in the death of his wife Suzanne.

All charges were dropped against Morphew in the 2020 killing, a case that was filed by Stanley in 2021. Suzanne Morphew’s remains were finally discovered in September and the investigation remains open. Colorado's 11th Judicial District includes Chaffee, Fremont, Park and Custer counties.

The state's 20-page complaint also alleges that Stanley sought an investigation of then-District Judge Ramsey Lama, who presided over the Morphew case, after what she saw as unfavorable rulings.

"…we couldn't understand Judge Lama's orders that were so egregious against us,
and he's normally not like that," Stanley is quoted in the complaint.

Though no complaint had been filed and no evidence existed, Stanley sought a domestic violence investigation and ordered an investigator in her office to interview Lama's ex-wife, Iris Lama, to discover whether the judge had discussed the Morphew case with her or if there was ever any domestic abuse in their relationship under the theory that the judge was somehow "getting back" at his ex-wife.

"And I said, let's see if we can get somebody to interview her to see if there was something going on or if she suspects that he is trying to get back at her, essentially, in almost a passive-aggressive way by making this case impossible to prosecute," Stanley is quoted as saying in the complaint. "So we wanted to see if she would say anything to us about any of that or if these actions by the judge may be almost a passive-aggressive move at her."

Iris told the investigator there was never any domestic abuse in their relationship and that they had not discussed the Morphew case.

The state also charges that Stanley had long-running conversations with internet true crime bloggers in violation of court rules.

Stanley's prosecution of Barry Morphew was beset by problems almost from the start. Her office was overwhelmed by the amount of documents and recordings gathered by investigators and quickly fell behind court deadlines for providing them to the defense as required in Colorado.

At the same time, the attorney regulation counsel alleges, Stanley was corresponding with true-crime video bloggers and disclosed some details of the case in violation of court rules. The counsel also claims Stanley violated court rules in an unrelated child abuse case by granting an interview with a Colorado Springs television station.

In July, Stanley responded to multiple complaints about her office by saying she was meeting her responsibilities to prosecute crimes in the district. In an interview with Colorado Springs television station KXRM-21, Stanley said she expected the investigation by the attorney regulation counsel to go nowhere.

"They’re [the Colorado Attorney Regulation Counsel’s investigation] not going to find anything," Stanley said. "It’s a witch hunt in my opinion.”

In all, the state filed seven claims against Stanley. Stanley could be censured by the state or lose her law license. Stanley was previously censured by the court in 2019 while in private practice after she failed to notify a client that she had taken a job with the state Department of Revenue and would no longer represent her in a 2017 civil case.

Stanley was elected DA in 2020 and took office in 2021.