Judge grants motion to dismiss attorney in baby death caseA motion was granted Monday in Southwest District Court in Dickinson to dismiss Murtha Law Office attorney Thomas F. Murtha IV from representing one of the defendants in a child abuse case.
By: Betsy Simon, The Dickinson Press
A motion was granted Monday in Southwest District Court in Dickinson to dismiss Murtha Law Office attorney Thomas F. Murtha IV from representing one of the defendants in a child abuse case.
Kevin McCabe, who represents Andrue Saunders, made the motion because he said his client spoke to Thomas Murtha Sr. about the facts in the case prior to being charged with Class C felony abuse or neglect of a child after the 2011 death of his and Theresa Saunders’ child.
Attorney Thomas F. Murtha IV with the Murtha Law Office was later hired by Theresa Saunders, who is the other defendant in the child abuse case.
Co-defendants Andrue Saunders and Theresa Saunders, who were previously married, have adverse views in the case.
Theresa Saunders, 23, will have at least three weeks to find another attorney to represent her at the rescheduled preliminary hearing.
According to the criminal complaints filed in Southwest District Court on Dec. 7, 2012, the defendants allegedly failed to provide proper parental care or control, subsistence, education required by law, or other care or control necessary for the physical, mental or emotional health of their child, who was born in 2011.
The complaint states the defendants, who are the biological father and mother of the child, consumed or possessed illegal drugs in their Dickinson home while they were in the presence of the child.
An autopsy conducted after the child’s death Oct. 5, 2011, found traces of a metabolite of cocaine and methamphetamine in the child’s body, according to the criminal complaint.
McCabe said Andrue Saunders, 23, came to his office in January and told him he spoke to Thomas Murtha Sr. prior to being charged in the case.
McCabe argued that his client told Thomas Murtha Sr. “everything he needed to know about the case.”
“I think Murtha law firm has the duty to recuse itself from the case,” McCabe said. “My client could be harmed.”
Thomas F. Murtha IV said he was not in the room during the discussion and requested an opportunity to speak to Thomas Murtha Sr., who was unable to appear at the hearing.
“I’m not being accused of being there,” Thomas F. Murtha IV said. “I do not have any information that Mr. Saunders gave to my father. I do not know what information was shared.”
When Assistant State’s Attorney Rhonda Ehlis was asked by Judge Zane Anderson for her response to the motion, she said she wanted to make sure the case could move forward without problems.