State accuses Richins’ defense of ‘manipulation,’ ‘putting on a show’

Posted at 4:52 PM, June 18, 2024

PARK CITY, Utah (Court TV) — Prosecutors in Kouri Richins’ murder trial are firing back against accusations of depriving the high-profile defendant of her rights, saying that Richins’ defense team has been manipulating the system and “putting on a show.”

Kouri Richins appears for a bail hearing

Kouri Richins, a Utah mother of three who authorities say fatally poisoned her husband then wrote a children’s book about grieving, looks on during a bail hearing Monday, June 12, 2023, in Park City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool)

Richins is facing charges of murder along with multiple financial crimes for allegedly poisoning her husband, Eric Richins, with a lethal dose of fentanyl in a cocktail in March 2022. After her husband’s death, Kouri published a children’s book about grief for the young sons she shared with the victim.

In May, Kouri was assigned new attorneys after her lawyer, Skye Lazaro, abruptly filed a motion to withdraw in May. But prosecutors say the motion, which cited “a mysterious ‘irreconcilable and nonwaivable situation'” was filed just hours after Lazaro filed a separate motion asking for the prosecution to be disqualified from trying the case. Prosecutors say that timing amounted to a “manipulative litigation tactic.”

“In a swift series of filings, [Richins’ attorneys] sought to poison this Aggravated Murder case by simultaneously removing every single lawyer. This is unconscionable given the Defendant’s custody status. …. [The attorneys’] delay in filing the Motion — months after the alleged events — demonstrates that the Motion is a manipulative litigation tactic that constitutes a stand-alone basis for dismissal.”

The “alleged events” include an incident at the Summit County Jail where Kouri is being held pending her trial. In the motion to disqualify the prosecution, Lazaro claimed that jail staff and Brad Bloodworth tried to prevent her from taking papers from her client during a visit on March 26, 2024. Lazaro said in her motion that despite the papers being clearly marked as privileged communications between attorney and client, jail staff insisted on reading them and going through them. Prosecutors instead tell a different story, saying that officers were trying to do a cursory scan of the documents when Lazaro began yelling at them. “I’ve conducted hundreds of document searches with attorneys throughout my career,” one officer said in an affidavit reviewed by Court TV. “I’ve never had an attorney get angry and react like Lazaro did.”

“Her behavior was bizarre,” prosecutors wrote in their motion. “At the time, it appeared Ms. Lazaro was simply putting on a show for her client. It now appears that a client performance is only part of the explanation.”

Kouri’s attorneys had also accused prosecutors of illegally accessing recorded jail calls between her and her attorneys. Prosecutors acknowledged that the calls were recorded, but noted that happened because the attorney refused to pre-register their number with the jail system. Despite the recordings, an independent taint team assigned to review the calls determined that no prosecutors accessed or listened to the calls.

Kouri and her new attorneys are due back in court for a scheduling conference on June 21.