The murder case of Darren Irving Goldin, 52, has led to the upheaval of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office amid claims and counter-claims of prosecutorial misconduct. Goldin, who was initially proceeding to trial on a count of first-degree murder, will now spend just 11 years in jail thanks to a plea deal he received in the wake of allegations of unethical behavior on the part of the lead prosecutor in the case, Richard Wintory.
In September 2011, Goldin’s attorneys filed a motion complaining that Wintory was improperly communicating with a potential defense witness. The allegations stemmed from conversations between a woman who was working with defense counsel to gather evidence about Goldin’s family history, and Wintory. The defense witness complained to Wintory that Goldin’s attorneys were pressuring her to commit ethical violations.
While the nature of the contact between Wintory and the defense witness was being investigated by the Court, Wintory submitted an affidavit in which he claimed to have only spoken with her on two occasions. However, court records showed that the pair had spoken at least 7 times including after Pima County Superior Court Judge Paul Tang had expressed concerns about their communications.
Wintory’s supervisor, Kim Ortiz, ultimately forced Wintory to get off the case – but not before allegedly asking his senior paralegal to amend an affidavit she had written supporting Wintory’s version of events to “make a statement that fit the ‘evidence’ that [Ortiz] had gathered,” the paralegal told the Daily Star. The paralegal said she was fired an hour after refusing to amend the affidavit. She subsequently filed a bar complaint against Ortiz in the matter. Last week the Arizona State Bar declined to hear the complaint, characterizing it as an employment dispute.
In forcing Wintory off the case and organizing a plea for Goldin, Ortiz acknowledged Wintory’s unethical behavior. Immediately after sentencing Goldin to 11 years in prison, Judge Tang announced he would ask the State Bar to investigate Wintory’s actions. Soon after the incident Wintory left the AG’s office to return to a county district attorney’s office – along with his secretary, who also quit and followed Wintory to his new post.
Despite his change in job, the ethical complaint made by Judge Tang continues to hang over Wintory’s head. The Daily Star reports the he “welcomes the Bar’s review” of his actions and continues to insist that the communications were entirely ethical.
In summary: 1) a defense witness complained to the prosecutor in a capital case that defense counsel were asking her to commit ethical violations, 2) the prosecutor proceeded to allegedly entertain ethics violations himself by speaking to her multiple times and misrepresenting that to the Court, 3) his supervisor responded by allegedly trying to manipulate his paralegal into changing a statement in her signed affidavit to make the evidence against him “fit,” and then firing her when she refused to do so.
Even without knowing which parties (if not all) are at fault, the widespread allegations of misconduct clearly demonstrate dysfunction in the Arizona AG’s office.