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3:45 AM Tue, Sept. 25th

DeMocker's 'docugate' claim goes back to Court of Appeals

Steven DeMocker

Steven DeMocker

The Arizona Court of Appeals has agreed to hear Steven DeMocker's "docugate" case again, after the defense claimed that its first ruling was a "giant Catch-22" that would not work.

DeMocker's trial on charges that he murdered his ex-wife in 2008 is on hold while Visiting Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe decides if the Yavapai County Attorney's Office should be disqualified from prosecuting the case because people in the office saw sealed documents related to the defense case.

Donahoe initially refused to hear such arguments, but the Court of Appeals found in favor of DeMocker and instructed him to hold a hearing.

The problem arose when Craig Williams, a lawyer for DeMocker, refused to turn over the documents to two Phoenix attorneys, Georgia Staton and Russell Yurk, who are litigating the case so that YCAO lawyers Steven Young and Jeff Paupore, who are prosecuting DeMocker, would not be exposed to them.

Williams said that to give up the materials to anyone would violate both DeMocker's Sixth Amendment rights and a previous judge's order not to disclose them.

His argument, that "re-violating" DeMocker's rights, even if many people had already seen the documents, frustrated Donahoe.

"How can I make a finding about the use (of the documents) if Ms. Staton can't put on witnesses?" asked Donahoe.

"What they're suggesting is an impossibility," Williams said, and that, at this point, disqualifying the YCAO was the only solution.

"How can the state prepare or even ask questions of witnesses if she hasn't even seen the documents?" Donahoe asked.

Williams said that what the Court of Appeals mandated is "impossible" and reiterated that only disqualifying the YCAO would work.

Nevertheless, Donahoe ordered him to give the materials to Staton and ordered that no one who has yet to see them would be allowed to do so.

Williams said he would file a Special Action with the Arizona Court of Appeals and Donahoe delayed the order.

The three-judge panel is slated to decide the issue May 24.