A judge decided Friday that Curtis Michael Allgier, the man charged with killing a corrections officer and who is facing a death-penalty murder charge, will continue to be represented by Salt Lake County Legal Defenders Association despite objections from LDA lawyers that there might be ethical and legal conflicts.
However, the judge said he is willing to let the LDA's office withdraw if other lawyers who are qualified to handle death-penalty cases will agree to represent Allgier.
LDA petitioned the court to withdraw from the case and have its entire office disqualified because many of the lawyers there knew the victim, Stephen Anderson, and some were close friends with him.
The lead LDA attorney on the case, Michael Peterson, told 3rd District Judge Deno Himonas Friday that Peterson had no doubt he could represent Allgier fairly, and no one at the LDA's office wanted to put Allgier in a difficult position.
But since the beginning of the case, some discussions and communications that have not been made public have occurred that Peterson suggested could be problematic, especially in a case with such high stakes.
Prosecutor Vincent Meister said court documents filed by LDA do not show any indications that a conflict extends to the entire LDA office.
Two private attorneys, Mark Moffat and Ken Brown, have tentatively agreed to take on the case, but only if the financial compensation is adequate.
Himonas directed the LDA's office and the prosecutors to file more legal briefs arguing their respective viewpoints and, in the meanwhile, recommended that Moffat and Brown begin discussions with Salt Lake County about possible fees.
Himonas said he did not want to leave Allgier without legal representation in a case where, if convicted, he could face the death penalty. "It's not in anybody's best interests to create a vacuum."Allgier, 28, is charged with aggravated murder for allegedly killing Anderson with Anderson's gun after Allgier had been taken from prison to a Salt Lake hospital for an MRI. Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller has stated publicly that her office will seek the death penalty if Allgier is convicted.