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Amid contention and confusion in the capital murder case of Matthew David Stewart, a judge has ordered the alleged cop killer's private attorney to take a backseat to the man's court-appointed lawyers.
In a ruling handed down Tuesday, 2nd District Judge Noel Hyde said defense attorney Randall Richards cannot file documents with the court without a signature from William Albright, one of two public defenders appointed to represent Stewart.
"It appears to the court that Mr. Richards is acting independently and without the consent or direction of court-appointed indigent counsel," the ruling stated. "As a result, the court is concerned that [Stewart's] dual defense may engender conflict motions, duplicative requests for resources, and, ultimately, confusion in this case."
Stewart's family hired Richards before charges were filed in connection with the Jan. 4 shootout between Stewart and the Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force that left Agent Jared Francom dead and five other officers injured. Richards, however, has said the family could not afford to pay enough to mount a full capital defense, leading to the appointment Albright and Ryan Bushell.
Because Stewart has not waived his right to the indigent counsel, Hyde has ordered Albright to serve as the lead defense attorney in the case. In addition to approving court filings, Albright must designate the attorney who can speak on Stewart's behalf during oral arguments.
"The defendant's right to an adequate defense does not entitle him to multiple defenses with multiple attorneys acting with separate strategies and agendas," Hyde wrote in his ruling.
Hyde also ruled that Richards was not entitled to compensation from Weber County.
The judge noted that Richards could remain on the case if Stewart can provide more funding or if Richards volunteered his services. The ruling "does not preclude [Stewart] from hiring or otherwise making arrangements with his own attorney."
Despite the appointment last month of Albright and Bushell, Richards had continued to file motions with the court, some of them accusing prosecutors of not providing him access to evidence in the case. Richards' motions prompted Weber County Attorney Dee Smith to call a press conference last week during which he accused Richards of "shenanigans" and defended his office's handling of the case.