Legal Briefs

Unexpected Discovery and Disclosure in the Stidham Murder


Not so fast with the release of the 2002 Escalade that Dr. Bradley Schwartz used to cruise about Tucson the night that Dr. David Brian Stidham, the man he recruited to join a bustling ophthalmology practice, was murdered.

Schwartz chauffeured his date, Lisa Goldberg, and Ronald Bruce Bigger, the man accused of killing Stidham on Schwartz's behalf, on Oct. 5. Bigger met up with Schwartz and Goldberg at a Grant Road Thai restaurant, and then Schwartz drove Bigger to the eastside Hilton.

Dr. Mark Austein owns the Escalade; Schwartz never really paid him for it.

Austein, director of medical services at the Pima County Jail, retained David Basham, who won approval for July 28 release of the Escalade. The date was moved to Aug. 4. Then Jill Thorpe, the fourth attorney appointed to represent Bigger, said she wanted to have a drug-sniffing dog check out the 'Slade while she also had Stidham's 1992 Lexus SC 400 inspected. The Aug. 3 examination of the vehicles was aborted because of the Lexus' dead battery that would not take a jump and because Thorpe decided to postpone tearing off the Escalade's interior panels in lieu of accepting an offer from a sheriff's detective to use a county drug-sniffing dog.

Thorpe, in court papers and on the record in an Aug. 8 hearing before Judge Nanette Warner, said Basham and Brick Storts, the attorney for Schwartz, were giving her the run-around. Storts, she said, first agreed to the release of the Escalade and then had no objection to her giving it an exam.

Storts raced back with answer, saying Thorpe "could have simply mentioned ... that a search was something that was planned at the time the Cadillac Escalade was to be examined and that could have been dealt with prior to the examination of the Cadillac. No mention of the proposed canine search was mentioned, thus, it was an attempt to use a surprise attack."

Storts, who has been thwarted in his effort to have Schwartz's trial begin on Nov. 15, said the tiff over the Escalade illustrates the need for Schwartz and Bigger to have separate trials.

"It can only be assumed that if these tactics are being perpetrated by (Thorpe) at this time, a complete conflict between the two defendants is not long in coming," Storts said in his answer.

Thorpe does not necessarily disagree. She, too, has indicated that a motion to sever, based on defense theories, is likely, even though Warner has so far refused to have two trials.

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