Maricopa County Attorney’s Prosecution Priorities Are Skewed

Bill Montgomery
Bill Montgomery (Wikipedia)

On November 19th, due to misconduct by county prosecutors, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sally Duncan ordered the dismissal of a first-degree murder indictment against Jeffrey Martinson for the death of his 5-year-old son Josh in 2004.

Judge Duncan wrote a 28-page summary of the county prosecution team’s misconduct. It described how the team, led by Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Frankie Grimsman, had “engaged in a pattern and practice of misconduct designed to secure a conviction.” The judge dismissed the indictment without prejudice, meaning the Arizona man cannot be retried for the murder because of double jeopardy.

According to the Arizona Republic newspaper, the county’s cost of prosecuting the case was already $2.97 million in July. It’s undoubtedly more than $3 million by now, and may continue to grow if Republican County Attorney Bill Montgomery decides to appeal Judge Duncan’s decision.

Grimsman isn’t the only Deputy Maricopa County Attorney to commit misconduct. A 2013 investigation by the Arizona Republic found many complaints about prosecutorial misconduct in Montgomery’s department. The Arizona Supreme Court has repeatedly documented instances of prosecutorial misconduct by Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Juan Martinez. Montgomery has taken no action against Martinez.

Now let’s compare that situation to the county’s defense of Republican Sheriff Joe Arpaio against accusations that his neighborhood “crime sweeps” were discriminatory against Latinos. In May of this year Federal Judge G. Murray Snow found Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office guilty of violating the civil rights of Latinos in the neighborhoods where the sweeps occurred. In essence, the judge found that sheriff deputies committed racial profiling – stopping people for “driving while brown.”

Judge Snow also ordered Arpaio’s department to cooperate in creating a plan to remedy the situation. But Arpaio willfully failed to fully comply with that requirement, so in October Judge Snow issued a final order, with strict prescriptions as to how Arpaio must change the way business is done in his office.

Maricopa County will have to pay the fees for the ACLU attorneys who brought the successful lawsuit against Arpaio. These lawyers have estimated their expenses at about $7.3 million. As you might expect, Arpaio’s county lawyers objected and labeled the amount, “outrageous, unreasonable, excessive and redundant,” which means the amount of money the taxpayers will spend to defend Arpaio’s illegal activities will increase.

So let’s summarize the legal landscape in Maricopa County. It’s OK for the county to spend more than $3 million to illegally prosecute a murder case against a citizen, but it’s not OK to spend $7.3 million to help the ACLU defend citizens whose civil rights are being violated by county law enforcement officers. Either way, county taxpayers are on the hook for more than $10 million.


On December 22, 2016, the Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, an association of nearly 500 defense attorneys, filed a complaint with the State Bar of Arizona against Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Juan Martinez, alleging he exhibited a pattern and practice of ethical violations and prosecutorial misconduct.

On September 12, 2017, the Arizona Supreme Court’s Presiding Disciplinary Judge William O’Neill dismissed the complaints against Martinez after very a brief hearing.

On December 7, 2017, the State Bar of Arizona appealed the dismissal of the complaints against Martinez by Judge O’Neill to the entire Supreme Court.

On March 9, 2018, the complaints against Martinez were reinstated. Previously, on March 7, new allegations were filed with the State Bar against Martinez.

On May 8, 2018, County Attorney Bill Montgomery sent a letter to local police departments telling them he was in charge of which records they could release to the public, including police body cam footage, and that he would indemnify them if they get sued for violating the state’s public records law.

On May 25, 2018, the Phoenix Police Department said it would ignore Montgomery’s demand in order to continue to promote more government transparency.

On September 12, 2018, a State Bar of Arizona investigator asked a state bar committee to consider disciplinary action against Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Juan Martinez because of allegations that he had interacted with women inappropriately.

On September 28, 2018, County Attorney Bill Montgomery compared the Democratic Senators on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to, “a pack of hyenas.”

On November 5, 2018, the Arizona Supreme Court’s Attorney Discipline Probable Cause Committee authorized the State Bar counsel to prepare and file a formal complaint against Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Juan Martinez.

On November 27, 2018, Bill Montgomery’s Maricopa County Attorney’s Office agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., the man authorities had accused in a series of shootings on Phoenix freeways in 2015 before charges against him were dropped.

On December 2, 2018, the Arizona Republic newspaper reported that Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery had told one of their reporters that his office had recently completed an internal investigation of Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Juan Martinez and disciplined him based on the findings. The paper also reported that the County Attorney’s office had failed to respond to a public records request for Martinez’ personnel files.

On December 11, 2018, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery tried to explain why he had failed to provide public records pertaining to his disciplinary actions against Maricopa County Attorney Juan Martinez.

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