State bar pursuing ethics charges against Washington County DA, lawyer
Case stems from handling of mentally ill murder suspect
The Oregon State Bar is pursuing an ethic charges against the Washington County District Attorney and a defense attorney for decisions they made concerning a mentally ill murder suspect.
The decision was made on Saturday when the State Professional Responsibility Board reviewed the bar's investigation into complaints against District Attorney Bob Hermann and defense attorney Robert Axford, according to bar spokeswoman Kateri Walsh.
The complaints were filed by retired Judge Jim Hargreaves concerning the handling of DonnÂ Thomas Spinosa, who was accused of killing his wife.
According to the complaints Hermann and Axford pursued a mental illness magistrate hold against Spinosa that was not authorized by Oergon law. It was signed by Washington County Judge Thomas Kohl.
The board brought charges against Hermann and Axford but dismissed the complaint against Kohl.
In a Sept. 25 letter to Herman, the bar wrote, "At a meeting held on September 22, 2012, the State Professional Responsibility Board of the Oregon State Bar directed that a formal discipkinary proceeding be instituted against you. The proceeding related to the matter brought to our attention by Senior Judge James R. Hargreaves and will adress your alleged violations of the standards of professional conduct: RPC 3.1 [unmeritous legal position] and RPC 8.4(a)(4) [conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice].
The bar sent a similar letter to Axford.
The charges will be investigated by a three-member panel appointed by the Oregon Supreme Court. Hermann and Axford could be disbarred if found guilty of the alleged violations.
Hermann and Axford could not be reached for comment.
Spinosa was charged with stabbing his wife to death on May 10, 1997. He was declared unable to assist in his own defense and sent to the state hospital for treatment. After he reach the three-year limit allowed by law, the charges were dismissed but he was repeatedly civilly to the hospital.
Hermann refiled aggravated murder charges against Spinosa in October 2010. A year later, Kohl found that Spinosa was still unable to aid and assist in his trial. Hermann and Axford, Spinosa's attorney, then filed a joint motion asking that he be held indefinitely at the hospital. It was signed by Kohl. In his complaints, Hargreaves said that violated Spinsoa's rights.