The Utah Supreme Court has ruled in a potential death penalty case that a district court did not abuse its power when it decided not to find that serious conflicts of interest existed involving the man's lawyers.
The high court ruled on Tuesday that there might be some potential conflict of interest, but termed it "of so little consequence" that Wade Garrett Maughan should have been able to keep his original legal team of attorneys Richard Mauro and Scott Williams.
The Supreme Court also directed the district court to appoint an independent lawyer for "the limited purpose" of advising Maughan with regard to waiving any potential conflict of interest and keeping Mauro and Williams.
Maughan, 52, is facing a capital murder charge in connection with the 1984 slaying of Bradley Newell Perry, 21, who was killed during a robbery while working at a family-owned Box Elder County gas station/convenience store.
A co-defendant, Glenn Howard Griffin, 50, also has been charged with the Perry murder. He recently filed an appeal with the Utah Supreme Court on a different matter: the chain of custody of DNA evidence.
Prosecutors sought to have Maughan's legal team disqualified from the case due to what prosecutors termed several conflicts of interest.
As a compromise, Williams was taken off the case, which has essentially been at a standstill pending the Supreme Court decision.
Maughan, meanwhile, has said he wants these lawyers to represent him. He currently is in the Weber County Jail, while Griffin is in the Box Elder County Jail.
Prosecutors contended that Williams, Mauro and investigator Ted Cilwick created several conflicts of interest, especially when they traveled in December 2005 to Maughan's former home of Spokane, Wash. and interviewed potential witnesses.
Spokane police alleged that Maughan's legal team told individuals not to speak to anyone, which may have been interpreted as an illegal directive to not speak to police officers. Spokane police at one point arrested Mauro and Cilwick, but in two years, no charges have been filed against them.
Prosecutors also contended:
• The lawyers would shift their focus from defending Maughan to themselves, leaving Maughan with inadequate legal representation.
• Possible exploration into discussions between Mauro and a friend of Maughan's might reveal Mauro's arrest and "would create an impossible situation" for Mauro.
• Witness statements regarding their talks with Williams showed "confusion" about speaking to police.
• There was a claim by a Spokane woman later discounted by prosecutors who said Mauro posed as a TV reporter, with Williams as his driver.Mauro on Wednesday strenuously denied any wrong doing on his part or by anyone on the team. He anticipates the next step in the case will be scheduling conferences before the original trial judge, 1st District Judge Ben Hadfield in Brigham City.