FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. — A Fremont County judge issued an order Friday declining to dismiss the case against Barry Morphew who is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the May 2020 disappearance and presumed death of his wife Suzanne.
Judge Ramsey Lama did, however, sanction the prosecution by excluding 14 of their 16 endorsed expert witnesses. In the motion, he wrote it was a "significant" but "warranted" sanction given the record.
>The video above is a prior story about the Morphew case
That record included a "continuing pattern" by the prosecution to comply with obligations under Rule 16, which is their obligation to turn over discovery ahead of trial. He wrote their "actions amount to negligent, and arguably, reckless disregard" of the rule and subsequent.
RELATED: Judge will not admit prior acts of alleged domestic violence as evidence in Barry Morphew trial
Barry Morphew was arrested on murder charges on May 5, 2021, almost a year after Suzanne was last seen. His trial is set to begin later this month.
In September of that year then Judge Patrick Murphy, found there was probable cause to move the case forward to trial. Morphew's trial is set for trial on April 28.
Murphy recused himself from the case after the defense brought up possible conflicts of interest. The court then granted a change of venue request and the trial will now take place in Fremont County.
In Friday's order, Judge Lama called dismissal a "drastic sanction" that must be reserved for situations where no other sanction will “restore as nearly as possible the level playing field that existed before the discovery violation.”
He went on to say that without "willful misconduct" dismissal is typically "beyond discretion" of the court.
An issue at the center of the defense request was the prosecutions failure to provide evidence to the defense that "information tending to negate the guilt of accused (Morphew). Specifically that information was a CODIS match letter indicating that an unknown source of DNA could be linked to other unsolved out-of-state sexual assaults in Tempe, Phoenix, and Chicago.
Prosecutors knew about it in May but never disclosed it to the defense until late July.
During the September preliminary hearing, the judge found "that proof was not evident and the presumption not great" based on that DNA evidence. The judge wrote specifically, that unknown DNA profile "doesn’t prove a stranger abduction theory, it does at least support it."
Barry Morphew is charged with:
- First-degree murder
- Tampering with a deceased human body
- Tampering with physical evidence
- Possession of a dangerous weapon
- Attempt to influence a public servant
RELATED: Investigators in Morphew case all thought there was probable cause, but disagreed on timing of arrest
> Do you have a news tip on this story or any other story? We want to hear from you! Tell us about it by emailing email@example.com.
SUGGESTED VIDEOS: The disappearance of Suzanne Morphew