The lawyer representing a woman in the bombing death of her former husband has been pulled from the case by Pima County Legal Defender Isabel Garcia who claims the judge has made it “impossible” for the attorney to do his job.
Garcia announced Tuesday she is taking attorney Peter Herberg off the Pamela Phillips homicide case. The move was made because rulings by Judge Richard Fields prohibit Herberg from being able to adequately represent Phillips, Garica said.
Herberg will be replaced as the lead attorney, though Garcia told Fields she does not yet know who in her office it will be assigned. Assistant Legal Defender Michael Carrillo will continue as second chair.
Phillips was indicted in October 2008 on charges alleging she orchestrated the Nov. 1, 1996, death of her former husband. Tucson businessman Gary Triano died in a pipe bomb explosion outside the La Paloma Country Club. The man accused of building and detonating the bomb, Ronald Young, is currently serving two life sentences.
Phillips has been declared mentally unfit to go to trial and is currently in a restoration-to-competency program at the Pima County jail.
Herberg has filed motion after motion accusing the Pima County Attorney’s Office of hiding evidence he believes will show Triano was killed by the mafia. He also contends Fields has proven by his rulings he is biased against Phillips.
Herberg has twice mounted unsuccessful attempts to have Fields removed from the case.
The last attempt came after a Feb. 9 hearing during which Fields threatened to remove Herberg from the case and limited the contact between Phillips and Herberg while she is in the restoration process.
The judge accused Herberg of engaging in a “blatant and intentional” attempt to interfere with the restoration process by attacking the process itself and by having “sustained, repetitive, almost obsessive visits with Ms. Phillips.” Fields also accused Herberg of defamation and distorting facts.
In her written notice, Garcia write she removed Herberg from the case because of Fields’ actions Feb. 9.
“The events of February 9th irreparably changed (the) focus away from the actual evidence in the case,” Garcia wrote.
She also cited the Arizona Court of Appeals’ refusal to impose a stay while her office appeals presiding Judge Sarah Simmons’ decision last month to allow Fields to remain on the case.
Garcia went on to write: “Ms. Phillips is mentally ill, incompetent, and innocent. She was entitled to an inviolate attorney-client relationship with Mr. Herberg, Esq. At the same time, she is entitled to defense counsel who is not disadvantaged by the court’s February 9th public statement. Under the circumstances...both these rights cannot be satisfied.”
In related matters, Fields informed the attorneys that doctors believe Phillips, who turns 55 Saturday, needs more time in the restoration program.
Because of that development and the need for a new attorney, Fields moved Phillips’ trial from June to October.
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org