Kouri Richins’ defense withdraws, wants prosecution disqualified

Posted at 1:59 PM, May 20, 2024 and last updated 10:21 AM, May 21, 2024

PARK CITY, Utah (Court TV) — Two motions filed in the case of a children’s book author accused of murdering her husband are seeking to have an entirely new slate of attorneys try the case.

Kouri Richins sits in court

Kouri Richins, a Utah mother of three, who wrote a children’s book about coping with grief after her husband’s death and was later accused of fatally poisoning him, looks on during a hearing Wednesday, May 15, 2024, in Park City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool)

Kouri Richins is accused of poisoning her husband, Eric Richins, with a lethal dose of fentanyl in a spiked cocktail in March 2022. Kouri is also facing charges of financial crimes after prosecutors say she forged her husband’s name on documents to take out loans.

Kouri’s attorney, Skye Lazaro, has been a staunch advocate for her client, who has denied any involvement in her husband’s death. But Lazaro filed to withdraw from the case on Friday, citing an ethical mandate from an “irreconcilable and nonwaivable situation.” The issue emerged from the civil cases Kouri is facing from her husband’s family. No further explanation was given, only that the issue came to light after Kouri’s most recent hearing on May 15.

On Monday, the judge granted the motion to withdraw at a closed hearing. A status hearing in the case was scheduled for May 24. A new attorney has not yet been named to represent Kouri.

Before filing the motion to withdraw, Lazaro filed a motion asking the judge to disqualify the prosecution from the case, specifically chief prosecutor Brad Bloodworth, “due to his involvement in severe violations that compromise the integrity of adversarial fairness.”

READ MORE | Divorce, financial ruin: Prosecutors detail evidence against Kouri Richins

The motion accuses Bloodworth of violating Kouri’s attorney-client privilege multiple times, including by saving recorded jail phone calls. Kouri’s attorney alerted prosecutors that some of her phone calls with counsel were produced in discovery. Bloodworth responded, saying that because Kouri’s attorney refused to register and download an app that shields attorney-client calls, “it seems [the attorney] consented to the State maintaining the recordings.” The defense says it never consented and Kouri never waived her attorney-client privilege.

The filing also references an incident on March 26, 2024, when Kouri and her attorney met in jail. Kouri had told the sergeant that she would need a “paper pass” to give relevant documents to her counsel, but the sergeant challenged the issue. Lazaro recounted in the filing that she repeatedly told the officer that he could not read the pages or seize them, but that he insisted on reading them anyway.

When the sergeant was unsure how to proceed, Lazaro alleges he left the room before returning with his captain and Bloodworth, where the “tense confrontation” continued before Bloodworth eventually allowed Lazaro to take the notebook. Lazaro said the incident was a clear violation of Kouri’s Sixth Amendment rights, and when combined with the phone calls, provides evidence that the prosecution should be removed from the case.