SALT LAKE CITY — Embattled former Utah Highway Patrol trooper Lisa Steed was scheduled to testify Monday in a DUI arrest she made, even though she is no longer a trooper and some of her cases have been thrown out.
The defense attorney for a 53-year-old woman arrested by Steed believes that in light of the recent controversy surrounding the trooper — including the dismissal of two other DUI cases Steed was involved with in other jurisdictions — that the Salt Lake City Prosecutor's Office should also dismiss his case.
"This case is problematic because we have a … cop that was fired," said defense attorney Jesse Nix. "Think about it, she's under FBI investigation, she was fired from the Utah Highway Patrol, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office is not prosecuting cases, the Davis County Attorney's Office isn't prosecuting cases, why is the Salt Lake City Prosecutor's Office so passionate about this case?"
Steed, the UHP's 2007 Trooper of the Year, was fired after it was revealed in 3rd District Court that she violated department policies, falsified police reports and used questionable practices when making DUI arrests. An internal UHP memo leaked earlier this year to the media showed that of 20 DUI-drug reports written by Steed in 2009 alleging the driver was impaired on marijuana, 11 were not actually impaired.
Nix represents Bernice Martinez who was pulled over by Steed in 2010. She was eventually charged in Salt Lake Justice Court with driving with a measurable amount of controlled substance in her system, not having a valid driver's license, making an improper turn and failure to signal. Nix claims tests show there were no drugs and no impairment found with his client.
But assistant Salt Lake City prosecutor Steve Newton believes Steed is still a reliable witness in the case. As of Monday, he said there were no plans to dismiss it.
"What other jurisdictions decide to do, what other prosecuting agencies decide to do, that's their call," he said.
Steed's attorney, Greg Skordas, said his client's status has been "mischaracterized," and decisions finding her "not credible" were case-specific — something Salt Lake City prosecutors appear to be echoing.
A jury trial was scheduled to begin Monday in Judge L.G. Cutler's courtroom. Steed was present and ready to testify. She was not in a UHP uniform.
Steed was escorted to and from the courtroom through a large presence of photographers and reporters from the media waiting in the hallway for her, but she refused to answer any questions.Comment on this story
Although Steed's troubles have been widely reported, they have not been introduced as part of Martinez's DUI case. The defense filed a motion for the city to turn over all exculpatory evidence it has on Steed, claiming the city prosecutor's office had failed to do so. The motion was taken under advisement, the trial postponed and another hearing was set for Jan. 15.
On Friday, two motorists who claim they were illegally arrested for DUI by Steed even though they weren't drunk, filed a civil lawsuit against her. Also on Friday, Steed filed an appeal with the state to get her job back.
Contributing: Andrew Adams