A former Davis County prosecutor who was fired for tainting a witness identification in a robbery case and attempting to cover it up at trial has been suspended from practicing law for 7 months. The prosecutor, Tyler James Larsen, performed an inappropriate photo line-up and then failed to correct a witness’s false testimony about the line-up at trial.
The Utah State Bar disciplinary complaint was decided on by a judge in July, 2014, but the suspension has been put on hold pending Larsen’s appeal to the Utah Supreme Court.
According to Dennis Romboy at KSL.com, Larsen was fired for his misconduct in the 2010 aggravated robbery trial of Joseph Apadaca. Romboy reports:
While preparing for trial, Larsen visited the site of the robbery, a Clearfield clothing store, to meet with two eyewitnesses. He later acknowledged that after “having a hard time communicating” with one of them, he showed her a black-and-white photo of Apadaca. But a Clearfield police officer who was with him said Larsen showed a color photo to both witnesses, according to the appeals court.
At the trial, Larsen called one of the eyewitnesses as his first witness. On cross-examination, the defense asked the witness if he had “been shown a photo or seen … a photo ID” of the suspect. The eyewitness said no. Larsen made no attempt to correct the record, according to the appeals court.
When cross-examining the second eyewitness, the defense asked her whether “she had ever been shown a lineup or photo array,” and she answered yes. As a result, the defense moved for a mistrial, and the court granted the motion.
Larsen was first placed on administrative leave, then fired. In April, 2014, the Utah Court of Appeals held that Larsen’s termination was lawful:
“The council held an appropriate hearing and concluded, in brief but unmistakable findings, that the charged misconduct alone warranted termination.”
Larsen had previously filed a lawsuit against his former employer asking for at least $1 million in damages.