Arizona Justice Project logo

Some leadership news from the Arizona Justice Project:

Kathleen Brody is the new Executive Director of the Arizona Justice Project as of Jan. 4, 2016.

Kathleen Brody

The Phoenix law firm Osborn Maledon and the nonprofit Arizona Justice Project announced last week that Kathleen Brody, an Osborn Maledon partner, will serve as the executive director of the Project, effective Jan. 4, 2016. Brody also will continue her practice as part of Osborn Maledon’s Investigations and Criminal Defense group, where she focuses on criminal defense, government and internal investigations, and professional discipline proceedings.

The Arizona Justice Project’s current executive director, Katie Puzauskas, will continue to head the Post-Conviction Clinic at the Arizona State University College of Law. She will focus on some of the most difficult cases in the criminal-justice system.

The Arizona Justice Project, established in 1998, seeks to assure that Arizona’s prisons are not housing innocent individuals or those who have suffered manifest injustice through the criminal-justice system. In recent years, the Project has secured the release of 24 individuals, involving cases of wrongful conviction or manifest injustice. The Project has scores of cases under review or in post-conviction court proceedings.

For the last year, Brody has served as the president of the Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice (AACJ), a statewide not-for-profit organization of criminal-defense lawyers, law students and associated professionals dedicated to protecting the rights of the criminally accused and promoting excellence in the practice of criminal law. Brody’s work as president of AACJ has focused on increasing the organization’s visibility among legislators, other policy- and decision-makers, and the broader Arizona community. As executive director of the Arizona Justice Project, she will continue to work on community outreach and policy-reform efforts related to wrongful convictions and fairness in the criminal-justice process, in addition to overseeing all the work of the Project and ensuring its long-term sustainability.

Katie Puzauskas

Katie Puzauskas

“We are excited about the increased focus that having both Kathy and Katie working in these key roles will bring to the Arizona Justice Project,” said Larry Hammond, an Osborn Maledon partner and founder of the Arizona Justice Project. “As the Justice Project works to assure that individuals are treated fairly by the system, we also continue to identify many difficult systemic issues. Among those are increased life sentences for juvenile offenders and the lessening impact of the Arizona Clemency Board’s recommendations with Arizona governors.”

“It’s amazingly great timing that, as Katie wanted to spend more time working with cases, Kathy was eager to take on this new leadership role.”

Before joining Osborn Maledon in 2008, Brody clerked for Justice Andrew D. Hurwitz of the Arizona Supreme Court. She is a member of the Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of Arizona and has served as the web editor for the American Bar Association’s Litigation Section, Criminal Litigation Committee. She is also a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Brody also distinguished herself as a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.

Osborn Maledon P.A. is a 50-attorney leading Arizona law firm that provides litigation, business, and general counsel solutions for its clients.  More information is available here.

Justice at Stake logoHow do we know the weather is improving in Arizona? Our in-boxes are jammed with invitations to events—some even held outdoors!

Over the next few days, I’ll share a few event details to be sure you know as much as I do (what a low bar that is!).

Today, I mention three events, all occurring late this week. Get your curiosity and your business cards ready to attend:

  • Arizona Advocacy Network/Justice at Stake event. Thursday, Oct. 17, 5:30 pm. REGISTER HERE. Here is the detail:

“Arizona Advocacy Network is continuing our work to promote Fair Courts and Diversity on the Bench. We’re excited to invite you to our launch of a new, sustained project in collaboration with Justice at Stake, local, state and national organizations on October 17. Tim Hogan (Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest), Liz Fujii (Justice at Stake) and Eric Lesh (Lambda Legal) will each speak briefly on court cases that impact our lives, equality and justice. Guests are encouraged to make this a discussion with our three panelists. We have lots of food and drink and the social is free. You just need to reserve your place with rooftop access at the Clarendon limited to 100 guests.

“Americans are engaged in an important and vigorous debate over the best way to stem gun violence, but the heated argument begs the question: What do the numbers show? Stanford Law School Professor John Donohue III, one of the world’s leading empirical legal researchers, will give a public lecture on the subject at The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.”

  • State Bar CLE: “The Arizona Justice Project: Volunteer Lawyers on the Long Hard Road to Justice.” Friday, Oct. 18, 9 a.m. Available live, Tucson simulcast or as a webcast. Here is the detail:

AZ justice-project logo“This session will showcase the work of the Arizona Justice Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to examining claims of innocence and manifest injustice, and providing legal representation for inmates believed to have been failed by the criminal justice system. The seminar will include a discussion of current advancements in forensic science as well as an overview of post-conviction relief procedures. A primary focus of the program will be to highlight the importance of and opportunities for pro bono service. Faculty will discuss actual cases involving the work of the Project to include the Drayton Witt, Bill Macumber and Louis Taylor cases.

Here’s hoping we get to meet at one or more of these events.

The Pioneer Hotel burns in downtown Tucson, December 1970.

The Pioneer Hotel burned in downtown Tucson, December 1970.

[Note: A previous version of this story indicated that the Pima County Attorney’s Office is housed in the structure that formerly was the site of the Pioneer Hotel. We were misinformed; the PCAO is across the steet from that site. We apologize for the error.] 

Last evening, the TV news magazine 60 Minutes screened a compelling news story about the Hotel Pioneer fire case, from 1970.

The Tucson fire killed 28 guests, and 16-year-old Louis Taylor was arrested before the fire was extinguished. The black teenager was convicted by an all-white jury.

The news program (screen shots below) was peppered with commentary by Taylor’s Arizona lawyer, Ed Novak, a Polsinelli partner (and former President of the State Bar of Arizona). As the story says, Novak “is now leading Louis Taylor’s defense team, which is made up of volunteer lawyers, students and law professors from the Arizona Justice Project.” That team has sought a new trial for Taylor.

Novak and the team reviewed all the evidence, and conducted depositions of individuals such as the original fire investigator, Cy Holmes. That work was followed by recent findings that the cause of the fire was undetermined; that meant arson was just one of a number of possibilities.

“The last time I checked,” Novak said, “we don’t convict people on a ‘possibility.’”

In the story, Steve Kroft reported that 60 Minutes had sought an interview with Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, to no avail. So Steve approached her on a Tucson street. That interview is captured in the broadcast.

But, as the story indicated, a new trial will likely never occur. Taylor has accepted a deal that gave him release from prison—where he has spent two-thirds of his life—but through which he must declare no contest to the charges.

You should read the script, and view the story, here.

Later this week, Taylor’s lawyers will have a press conference on the case’s outcome. I’ll report their statements.

Here are some screen shots from the 60 Minutes program:

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William Macumber

John Faherty, in yesterday’s Arizona Republic, did a phenomenal job retelling the tale of one of Arizona’s most notorious murders. It was riveting, exhaustive and incisive. Not only that, it was timely, as we learned at the end of the article—for another step in the case is still being played out decades after the crime.

The murder was actually plural—there were two. Joyce Sterrenberg and Tim McKillop were both 20 years old and dating that May night in 1962 when they decided to pull off the main road and park Joyce’s Chevy Impala on a dirt stretch, close by the intersection of Scottsdale and Bell roads. That turned out to be a tragic decision; they were found near the car the next day, shot dead.

It took police until 1975 to arrest someone for the apparently motiveless crimes, and that man was William Macumber.

Faherty weaves all of that, plus far more, into a coherent and gripping narrative. Along the way, he tells about a young lawyer—later Judge—who represented another man whom the attorney believed committed the crimes that led to a life sentence for Macumber.

That is what takes us to modern-day Arizona. Thomas O’Toole the lawyer had represented a man he believed to be guilty for those crimes. But his client had been convicted for another rape and murder, and attorney–client privilege prevented O’Toole from doing anything with the extra information anyway.

But in 1974, when O’Toole read that Macumber had been arrested for the 1962 murders, the then-Judge was stunned. He contacted lawyer Larry Hammond, who had just established the Arizona Justice Project, “which would work to free the wrongly convicted or unfairly sentenced.” The Judge said that if Hammond was looking for something to work on, he should examine the Macumber conviction.

Read the entire story here. It’s broken into three parts—kudos to the Republic for hanging tough with this long but important story.

As I read Faherty’s great tale, though, I was struck by a few things.

One is our fascination with murder stories. And it seems that every one ultimately continues to hold mysteries that resist unraveling.

In Arizona Attorney Magazine, we have published our share of bloody Arizona stories.

In 2008, Gary Stuart excerpted a chapter of his book on the 1991 Buddhist Temple Murders.

And also in 2008, Judge Bill Schafer wrote “Murder in the Desert” for us, detailing the 1966 trial of Charles Schmid, who killed a girl “to see if he could get away with it.”

Murder stories may be instructive, but they are also lurid, and they can raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

But I thought last night about another aspect of stories like this. And it made me wonder about Faherty’s story.

How many unsolved murders are there? Quite a few, I’d bet. And how many get coverage reaching back decades? Again, not many. But what would the chances have been if the intersection had not been Scottsdale and Bell roads? How slim would those chances be if the intersection had been much farther south, maybe below Van Buren? Or what if the crime had occurred on the reservation? Experience and a wealth of news stories demonstrate that it is quite likely that crime would never have been solved—or even investigated well. And a dearth of news stories tells us that the crime would probably not have been covered in any major newspaper—in 1962 or today.