Supreme Court Case
JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Supreme Court heard a case involving a county prosecutor, a controversial recording and the Attorney General’s office Tuesday morning.
The case is about challenges to the Attorney General’s office’s involvement as a special prosecutor and the recording of an attorney-client privilege conversation.
In 2014, Moniteau County Prosecutor Shayne Healea was backing his truck out into the street when he crashed into the windows of Addison’s Grill restaurant in Columbia. The accident left four people injured.
Columbia police officers arrested Healea and put him in a holding cell, where he spoke on the phone with his attorney. Unbeknown to him, cameras recorded the video and audio of the conversation he had with his attorney. Recording the conversation violated attorney-client privilege.
CPD then provided information on the case, including the recording, to the Attorney General’s office, which had been appointed special prosecutor.
Shane Farrow, the attorney for Shayne Healea, asked the court Tuesday to disqualify the Attorney General’s office from the case and appoint a new special prosecutor. He said there is “impropriety” in the case because the office had the recording between Healea and his lawyer, which could interfere in the case.
Farrow said he spoke with two people from the Attorney General’s office who said they did not look at the contents in the tape.
“But my concern is we don’t know that everybody in the Attorney General’s office has not viewed this at some point, that there is not some investigator, somewhere, who’s looked at this,” Farrow said.
John Sauer, representing the Attorney General’s office, said the office should not be disqualified from the case. He said they did not know of the contents of the video, nor did anyone look at it.
“No member of the attorney general’s office has viewed this recording,” Sauer said.
Sauer said there was not any impropriety in the Attorney General’s office. He outlined three factors that should be taken into consideration before disqualifying the Attorney General’s office.
Did the prosecutor know or should have known that they were intruding on a privileged communication?
Did they have actual knowledge of the contents of that communication?
Did that communication create trial strategy?
Sauer said, “none of those three factors have been satisfied.”
However, Farrow said there is an “appearance of impropriety” with the Attorney General’s office.
“The appearance that exists, is something that undermines the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system in this case,” Farrow said.
Farrow provided some solutions, saying he would like the video to be taken away from the police department. He then wants the court to appoint a different special prosecutor to go forward with the case.
Sauer said someone in the Attorney General’s office could have looked at the disk, not knowing it was attorney-client information.
“But because of truth of fact, that never happened,” Sauer said. “I don’t think there’s any reason to suggest there’s an impropriety with these particular prosecutors going forward.”
The court has not said when it would issue a ruling.