Legal Briefs

Unexpected Discovery and Disclosure in the Stidham Murder


Though she hasn't tried a case in decades, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall knows how a prosecutor should act. LaWall is such a devoted follower of Law & Order that she told the Pima County Merit Commission what Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) would do if he were pals with Lourdes Lopez.

Other players in this scene are Georgia Brousseau, chairwoman of the Merit Commission, and Brad Roach, the former rising-star prosecutor who represented himself in a successful appeal of the three-week suspension LaWall gave him. LaWall and her administrators believed Roach engaged in inappropriate conduct when Lopez, also a former prosecutor, told him what she knew from her ex-fiancé, Dr. Brad Schwartz, the man accused of masterminding the murder of Dr. Brian Stidham.

Brousseau: I can understand a person trusting another person's word, but at the risk of quoting Ronald Reagan: trust and verify. You know, the verification is the piece that should have been done.

LaWall: Ms. Brousseau, you once again have absolutely said it correctly, because verification is the correct word here. And it really makes that distinction clear, because not--Mr. Roach may have trusted that Lourdes Lopez went to the police, but there was no way of knowing what she said to them. It could have been as vague as "I know Brad Schwartz, and I know that he is a suspect." But she may not have told the police the details that she told Mr. Roach. There is no way without doing that verification to know. And as a deputy county attorney in a crime that is this serious, it would seem to me that it would absolutely be a fundamental kind of thing. I cannot--I want to go back to, you know, Law & Order again. I'm a huge fan of that show. I don't know if you folks are, but, you know, I cannot imagine Assistant D.A. Jack McCoy coming into this information with a friend who was a former employee in the office, and for Jack McCoy not to call Detective Briscoe and say: "Guess what, Lennie, we have got something to investigate here. You need to know, I don't like this guy. I have some personal animosity to him, but this is what my friend is telling me so you have got to check this out." I cannot imagine that not happening.

Roach: Given that's a TV show and not reality, you couldn't imagine that not happening in a TV show?

LaWall: I certainly could not imagine that not happening in reality.

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