Lawyers Want NH Prosecutors off Death Row CaseGeorge Conk in Otherwise (blog), July 20, 2013
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Lawyers for New Hampshire’s only death row convict want the entire Attorney General’s office disqualified from handling his appeal after the office hired a key member of Michael Addison’s defense team.
Defense attorneys argued in a New Hampshire Supreme Court filing this week that former public defender Lisa Wolford, who worked full time on Addison’s case in 2009, took at least one confidential document with her when she joined the Attorney General’s office last summer as an appellate lawyer. The attorneys said she uploaded the document to her computer at the Attorney General’s office.
‘‘In poker terms, she not only knows the defense team’s hand but how the defense intends to play it,’’ wrote Attorney Andrew Schulman. ‘‘In football terms, she has her old team’s playbook.’’
Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice on Friday would not comment on the court filing, saying her office will respond in court.
Addison was convicted of fatally shooting Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs in October 2006 as he attempted to arrest him for a string of violent felonies. He was sentenced to death in 2008. The justices of the Supreme Court heard arguments in his case last November and are expected to rule later this year.
Addison’s lawyers also say Wolford for two months had access to the Attorney General’s computer files on the Addison case and was not barred from speaking with other prosecutors working on the case.
According to the court filing, former Attorney General Michael Delany, in response to questions posed by independent counsel hired by the defense team, said that the office has no procedures or written policies concerning screening lawyers for conflicts of interest.
Attorney George Conk, senior fellow of the Stein Center for Law and Ethics at Fordham University and an adviser on ethics to the New Jersey Supreme Court, said it was a tough call but he would disqualify the Attorney General’s office and order that private counsel be retained to insure the integrity of the appellate process.
‘‘The legal presumption is that all her loyalty now rests with her current employer, and she will use all the information she has in order to aid their cause,’’ Conk said.
Conk said Wolford’s new role could influence potential challenges by Addison years from now on whether he received effective assistance of counsel.
Mike Ramsdell, a defense lawyer who worked for the Attorney General’s office for 10 years, said he doesn’t think Wolford switching sides may be that big a deal.
Ramsdell said there should be policies in place to bar a new hire from working on any cases he or she previously worked on in another capacity. But he said the Supreme Court is reviewing what happened at the trial court level, based on transcripts and pleadings.
Deputy Chief Public Defender David Rothstein, lead counsel for Addison, declined to comment on the court filing.
New Hampshire’s last execution was in 1939.