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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Newspaper Demands Records in Murder Case

TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) - The Pima County Legal Defender's Office is stonewalling a request for information about a former public defender's handling of a murder case, The Arizona Daily Star claims in court.

The daily newspaper sued Pima County, the Pima County Legal Defender's Office (PCLD) and Pima County Legal Defender Isabel G. Garcia in Superior Court, alleging failure to comply with Arizona's public records law.

The murder case involves 55-year-old Pamela Phillips, who was indicted in 2008 on charges of conspiring to have her former husband, Gary Triano, killed.

Triano died in an explosion outside La Paloma Country Club in Tucson in 1996.

The man who built the bomb is in prison, and Phillips, after a lengthy competency restoration, is set to go to trial in April.

Garcia initially assigned attorney Peter Herberg to represent Phillips, but replaced him in April 2011, citing numerous conflicts with the judge in charge of the case, according to the Star.

The Star claims that while he represented Phillips, "Herberg deposited more than $4,000 into Ms. Phillips' account at the Pima County Adult Detention Center."

Star reporter Kimberly Smith sent a public records request to the Legal Defender's Office and Garcia in April 2012, requesting information about the deposits, expense reports and other documents. Garcia refused to comply, citing attorney-client confidentiality, according to the complaint.

Smith made a second request in August, asking for Herberg's letter of resignation and other documents. Again the office refused, saying that the documents did not exist or were not public.

Then Pima County Manager Chuck Huckleberry got involved, and the public records request was discussed during an executive session of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, to no avail, according to the complaint.

"After the November 13, 2012 meeting was held, Mr. Huckleberry informed representatives of the Star that a lawsuit would be necessary to secure the requested records," the complaint states.

So here it is. The newspaper seeks a court order to compel the county to hand over the documents.

It is represented by Daniel Barr with Perkins and Coie, in Phoenix.

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