Legal Briefs

Unexpected Discovery and Disclosure in the Stidham Murder


Oh, those Pinal County prosecutors who want to put Dr. Bradley A. Schwartz and Ronald Bruce Bigger in prison for the rest of their lives! Sylvia Lafferty and, to a lesser extent, Richard Platt are touchy about their cast of characters, known officially in the Pima County halls of justice as witnesses.

As the court-appointed lawyer for Schwartz, Brick Storts has the monumental task of trying to plant sufficient seeds for jurors to doubt that Schwartz hired Bigger to kill Dr. David Brian Stidham. On the other hand, Storts will have a gold mine of witnesses suffering from credibility crises. There's Lourdes Lopez, who needs a believability makeover for jurors to trust her testimony about how Schwartz, her former fiancé, ranted and raved about wanting Stidham killed and who outlined for her his murder plan.

And there's Laurie Espinoza.

The Pinal prosecution team fired off a prickly answer to a recent Storts' motion that questioned the credibility of Espinoza, a former Schwartz office manager. Storts, prosecutors say, mischaracterized a legal dance Espinoza had with Schwartz over a check.

"No actual judgment was ever obtained," Storts wrote in a Sept. 7 memorandum that details the squabble between Espinoza and Schwartz. Prosecutors are "correct and (Schwartz) apologizes for the improper characterization of what actually took place between Schwartz and Ms. Espinoza.

"In fact, Laurie Espinoza sued Dr. Schwartz for $6,851, to collect monies she alleged were due as the result of a 'stop payment' placed on a check by Schwartz," Storts explained. "Schwartz counterclaimed against Ms. Espinoza, alleging that she had forged the check and embezzled monies from his medical practice.

"Indeed, there was a settlement agreement entered into between Dr. Schwartz and Laurie Espinoza wherein she agreed to pay $2,538.99 to Dr. Schwartz's medical practice. This agreement contained the standard language that it should not be used, construed or interpreted as an admission of liability by any party for any purpose."

But Storts will use that spat for a purpose, just as he will attack the truthfulness of Espinoza and Lopez, who were co-defendants with Schwartz in a federal drug bust three years ago.

"One does not have to be the brightest person in the world to figure out that Ms. Espinoza did not sue for $6,851, and then agree to pay Dr. Schwartz $2,538.99, simply because she likes him," Storts wrote. "Schwartz has every intention of relying upon Ms. Espinoza's theft and dishonesty in order to impeach her credibility."

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