The resignation of Andrew Thomas as Maricopa Count Attorney leaves a major lawsuit in limbo.
Dozens of defense attorneys, including Michael Terribile who represents Jeffrey Martinson, have asked that deputy county attorneys be replaced because their boss, Thomas, has conducted a “relentless attack on the (Maricopa County) Superior Court.”
Martinson faces the death penalty for the death of his son in 2004. The case is set to go to trial in May 2011.
Terribile, in motions filed with court, said Thomas, who left office to run for Arizona Attorney General, and his criminal and civil suits filed against sitting judges was “intimidation and harassment” aimed at the judges, which made getting a fair trial impossible.
Now, with Thomas exiting the office, the argument seems to have evaporated.
“One school of thought is that once he tainted the pool, it’s tainted,” Terribile said, “but if he’s gone, is there still a problem that affects the court system?”
“I suspect that the motion and the hearings is moot at this point,” Terribile said, answering his own question.
But he wonders if Thomas didn’t pick the date of his resignation, April 6, because the following day a hearing was scheduled to hear about possible intimidation of the judiciary by Thomas.
“I’m convinced that the timing isn’t coincidental,” Terribile said.
Over the years Thomas has been a vocal opponent of anyone who he felt was weak on illegal immigrants or soft on crime.
A special outside prosecutor, Dennis Welenchick, in 2007 called Judge Timothy Ryan a danger to public safety and said he was biased and prejudiced against Thomas.
Terribile wanted Ryan to testify about the alleged intimidation he faced by Thomas, to bolster the case that a deputy county attorney from somewhere other then Maricopa County should prosecute the Martinson case.
“He’s the smoking gun,” Terribile has said.
Last year, Thomas filed a criminal “bribery” suit against one judge and a civil suit against judges, the Board of Supervisors and some outside attorneys.
Barnett Lotstein, Thomas’ special assistant, has said allegations against Thomas are “nonsense. This is just an attempt by defense attorneys, who are inventive and want to see their names in the newspaper, who want to create some confusion.”
But a legal ethics expert from Philadelphia, Lawrence Fox, wrote in documents filed with the courts that Thomas’ prosecutions appear to be improperly motivated and that deputy county attorneys should be disqualified from prosecuting capital cases.
Fox wrote before Thomas announced his resignation, that if he wanted to prosecute judges he then must recuse himself and his staff from appearing before any judges he is prosecuting or plans to prosecute.