Barry Morphew Murder Case Possible Lawsuit Prosecutor Misconduct Claims | Westword


Barry Morphew Attorney Teases Lawsuit Over Case, Takes Prosecutor Misconduct Claims National

The defense attorney is going on the offense.
A family photo of Suzanne Morphew, and Barry Morphew's booking photo
A family photo of Suzanne Morphew, and Barry Morphew's booking photo Family photo via CBS/Chaffee County Sheriff's Office
Share this:
Two weeks ago, Fremont County District Court Judge Ramsey Lama granted a request from 11th Judicial District District Attorney Linda Stanley to dismiss the murder case against Barry Morphew related to his wife, Suzanne Morphew, who's been missing since 2020.

The case was tossed on April 19 "without prejudice," a designation that allows charges to be filed again should new evidence warrant such a move — and in court documents, Stanley suggests that prosecutors may be able to bring the hammer down again after the discovery of Suzanne's body, which authorities theorize "is in a remote and mountainous region nearby the Morphew residence" but concealed by "5 feet of snow."

Iris Eytan of Denver-based Eytan Nielsen LLC, who represents Morphew, casts plenty of doubts on this assertion. For instance, she cites a photo taken a week after the dismissal by one of her investigators in the area near the Salida area home previously shared by the couple. "It's dry as a bone up there," Eytan says, "and they've already thoroughly searched that entire area, using thousands of man hours."

This is hardly the only complaint Eytan has about Stanley's actions against her client, and she notes that last October, Morphew sent a notice of claim that serves as a de facto warning about a possible civil lawsuit against county officials and agencies. In addition, she continues, "I intend to file a request for investigation with the Colorado Supreme Court and the Attorney Regulation Counsel to look at the misconduct of Ms. Stanley and some of the deputies that were involved in what I feel has been the false and malicious prosecution of Mr. Morphew."
A photo of the area near Barry Morphew's former home taken the week after the April 19 dismissal of the murder case against him.
Courtesy of Eytan Nielsen LLC
That's not all. In yet another indication that this defense attorney is going on the offense, Eytan is looking at reviving legislation that would allow DAs in the state to be sued personally for prosecutorial misconduct — a consequence from which they're protected in Colorado and beyond right now. She's been interviewed by Good Morning America for a segment on the subject expected to air this week.

"My belief is that Mr. Morphew has an immense amount of damages that law enforcement and the DA's office are responsible for," Eytan says. "They're responsible for his anguish, for spending five months in jail, for losing his ability to parent his two daughters, one of whom was a minor, for having to pay all these experts and lawyers and legal fees, and for the suffering that's come from the way they vilified him in the press. The DA and law enforcement did that."

Suzanne Morphew has not been seen since May 10, 2020; she vanished after leaving her residence for a bike ride. The 129-page affidavit against Barry Morphew, which was filed in May 2021 but not made public until last September, attempts to establish a motive for murder by, among other things, divulging specifics about Suzanne's unhappiness with her marriage; Barry's obsession over her affair with an old high school friend, Jeff Libler; and his explanations regarding his activities on the day when investigators believe her life was taken.

For Eytan, though, the most notable thing about the document is what's not in it. "Once we started finding out everything they knew but concealed and didn't put in the affidavit, it wasn't like, 'Wow, there's no body and it doesn't seem like they have any physical evidence.' It became way more conspiratorial from our perspective," she says. "They had unknown male DNA with hits from unsolved sex offenses around the country related to DNA found in this case, and they actually concealed it from the judge who bound the case over after finding probable cause. The case was transferred to another judge, and in April, he issued an order basically inferring that if the original judge had known about this DNA, they might not have signed an arrest warrant. That's how premature this arrest was, and why the arrest was basically a political move by Linda Stanley and her office."

Eytan speculates that Stanley called for the bust because of "media pressure, and pressure from these kinds of crime talk-show hosts who were really very biased, without any evidence, because it's always the husband who's the suspect. And Linda Stanley had just gotten elected, and she ran partly on solving cold cases. She talked about the case prior to charging Mr. Morphew, and when she did charge him, it was before the investigation or all the DNA and the labs had even been completed. But there was an anniversary of Suzanne's disappearance, and she wanted to make a media splash — and she definitely made one. They arrested Mr. Morphew on Mother's Day, which was the day before his daughter graduated from college, so he couldn't attend. It was nasty what happened, and it was wrong."

Stanley has defended her approach to the Morphew case in multiple forums, including a late 2021 appearance on the Profiling Evil podcast, and she's consistently denied claims of impropriety leveled by Eytan and her team. In a document filed in late February, the DA said this: "Of course these attorneys have also have advocated the preposterous notion to this Court that the 11th Judicial District DA’s Office, the FBI, CBI and Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office are in some grand conspiracy to suppress discovery that we have already timely provided."
Iris Eytan during a media event following the April 19 dismissal of the Barry Morphew murder case.
Courtesy of Denver7
Despite the DA's protestations, Eytan sees Stanley's behavior in the Morphew case as evidence of why the time is right for legislation removing prosecutors' personal immunity from lawsuits. She pushed such a measure behind the scenes during the Colorado General Assembly's 2021 session, and while a couple of sponsors signed on, they ultimately decided not to introduce it after failing to gain consensus. "It couldn't quite get there because of a lack of awareness," she notes. "But I really hope that we shine a light where it needs to be shined, so that in the next few years, we can start making changes across the country regarding prosecutorial abuse. We need to hold prosecutors responsible for their misconduct."

In the meantime, she's not waiting to see what prosecutors do next in the Morphew matter "because there's nothing for them to do," Eytan says. "They claim that they're stunted by snow and some frozen tundra above Barry Morphew's old house, and that's causing them hiccups in terms of finding Suzanne's body. But I don't think Suzanne's anywhere around the house, and they need to start looking somewhere else for her, because she was likely abducted or left with somebody and isn't in that area.

"I'm hoping they will use this time to actually look for her, and to actually find her — but I don't have a lot of faith that's what their intent is to do," Eytan continues. "They'd rather have this ire of suspicion around Barry Morphew, even though they never had evidence that he committed any wrongdoing at all. But I'm excited for Barry and his daughters to live their life and move forward and try to heal from the pain and anguish that's been caused against them."

Click to read the Barry Morphew arrest affidavit, made public in September 2021; the October 2021 notice of claim; and the April 2022 order regarding the renewed motion for discovery and contempt sanctions.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. Your membership allows us to continue offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food, and culture with no paywalls. You can support us by joining as a member for as little as $1.