Kouri Richins' attorney asks the court to take Summit County prosecutors off her case

Defense attorney Skye Lazaro, left, speaks to Summit County chief prosecutor Brad Bloodworth at a hearing for Kouri Richins, Wednesday. On Friday, Lazaro asked for Bloodworth to be taken off the case.

Defense attorney Skye Lazaro, left, speaks to Summit County chief prosecutor Brad Bloodworth at a hearing for Kouri Richins, Wednesday. On Friday, Lazaro asked for Bloodworth to be taken off the case. (Rick Boomer, Associated Press)

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PARK CITY — Attorneys for Kouri Richins, the woman accused of fatally poisoning her husband and then writing a book about loss, asked the court to Friday to disqualify the team of prosecutors from continuing to work on the case.

Richins' attorneys allege Summit County chief prosecutor Brad Bloodworth has been improperly using communications between Richins and her attorneys — which the attorneys say should be considered private under client-attorney privilege — while preparing the case against Richins. They ask in a motion to the court for all prosecutors to be dismissed but "specifically" Bloodworth.

The request comes just two days after a Wednesday preliminary hearing was delayed when attorney Skye Lazaro announced her intentions to object to all 18 exhibits brought by prosecutors. A preliminary hearing is a meeting in court in which prosecutors present evidence to convince a judge that the person facing criminal charges should be brought to trial. The judge then rules on moving the case to trial or dismissing the charges, according to state code.

Richins is charged with aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder, first-degree felonies; two counts of distribution of a controlled substance, two counts of insurance fraud and two counts of mortgage fraud, second-degree felonies; and three counts of forgery, a third-degree felony.

Charging documents allege she poisoned her husband Eric Richins, 39, and a toxicology report showed he died with five times the lethal dosage of fentanyl in his system.

At Wednesday's hearing, Bloodworth said he was not prepared to argue about whether the exhibits his team had prepared were admissible. He said prosecutors had no advance warning to the defense's opposition to the evidence. District Court Judge Richard Mrazik said he would try to reschedule the hearing as quickly as possible because Richins remains incarcerated. The new preliminary hearing has been scheduled for June 18-20.

Request to remove chief prosecutor from case

Lazaro in a court filing on Friday alleges that prosecutors had recordings of privileged calls and restricted Richins' ability to communicate with her attorney, hindering her right to effective counsel. Lazaro said her team discovered the jail had been recording phone calls with one of Richins' attorneys, J. Ramzi Hamady and brought that up with prosecutors on Dec. 11, 2023.

"Did you know this has been happening? Ramzi is clearly an attorney of record in the criminal case and the (Division of Child and Family Services) case so I am concerned," the email said.

Bloodworth said the attorney had not registered for or used an app that prevents calls from attorneys to clients from being recorded, so those calls were recorded just like other calls, Lazaro noted in the motion, saying that Bloodworth admitted to listening to "at least a portion of the calls" since May 2023.

In an email attached to Lazaro's motion on Friday, Bloodworth said the attorney "deliberately refused" to use the app.

"Ramzi knows that in refusing to use the app, the state maintains recordings of their calls. Accordingly, it seems that Ramzi consented to the state maintaining the recordings. Moreover, the state has transparently been providing these recordings in discovery for nearly six months," his email said.

Lazaro said Richins and her attorneys believed the calls were privileged, and it is "universally understood and accepted" that regardless of whether the app is downloaded, their calls with clients are still confidential.

'Walk The Dog' letter

The same Summit County sheriff's officer who searched Richins' cell and found a letter (known in the case as the "Walk The Dog" letter because of words scrawled across the top of the page), went through multiple other documents during a visit between Richins and her attorneys on March 26, Lazaro's request to the court on Friday says.

Lazaro said the pages were clearly marked, and Richins notified the sheriff's officer that he could not take the notebook or read the pages but could only flip through to make sure nothing was stuck in the pages.

"(The officer) spent several minutes looking at every page of the notebook, during which defense counsel repeatedly told him he could not read the pages and was violating her client's constitutional rights," the motion said.

Lazaro said the officer left and returned with his captain and Bloodworth, and then she was "intensely interrogated" about the notebook's contents. She said Bloodworth asked the officer "if he was sure to look at every page" to see if it was legal material.

Lazaro contends that Bloodworth, the officer and his captain were violating Richins' constitutional right to effective counsel. They said that unless it was a legal document, Richins could not give it to her attorney, according to Lazaro.

She said removing Bloodworth from the case "is necessary to rectify the violation ... and to preserve the integrity of the judicial process."

Lazaro, in a second motion, asked the court to suppress the "WTD (walk the dog) Letter," saying it was improperly seized. She argued, as she has previously in the case, that it should not have been filed publicly with the court. Prosecutors originally said the letter asks Richins' mother and brother to give false testimony at her trial.

Lazaro said the court has ruled that it was attorney-client communication, and she asks for it to be removed from the court documents. She said it is a fictional manuscript, and that prosecutors have since agreed.

The document was originally filed with a motion asking the court to prohibit Richins from contacting her family, which was denied by Mrazik on Nov. 3.

Prosecutors have not yet responded to either of the motions filed on Friday.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.


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