The Advocate

Is Ulises Ferragut a hell of a lawyer or just plain hell?

A week later, however, Anthony told a far different story in an affidavit filed with the court: "I recognized [Ferragut] as an attorney, and motioned to him to get his attention. . . . I asked him if he would come to see me to discuss representation in my case. Mr. Ferragut handed me his card, and I place(d) it in my pocket."

Later that day, Anthony added, "I expressed to [Ferragut and Leyh] my disappointment with Mr. Gaertner's representation. . . . At no time did [they] . . . attempt to solicit, force or coerce me into agreeing to change counsel."

But there was yet another issue smoldering behind the scenes of Anthony's case. Ulises Ferragut has never been lead counsel in a death-penalty case, a topic that Judge Frank Galati addressed at a hearing last September.

Ferragut at his downtown Phoenix office.
Kevin Scanlon
Ferragut at his downtown Phoenix office.
Ferragut at his downtown Phoenix office.
Kevin Scanlon
Ferragut at his downtown Phoenix office.

During the in-chambers hearing -- which Galati kept open over Ferragut's objections -- the attorney avowed he hadn't solicited David Anthony: "Quite frankly, I was not intending on doing anything inappropriate. I would have no reason to do it in front of three prosecutors. That would be foolish . . ."

Galati later told Anthony he wouldn't have appointed Ferragut or Leyh to the case had he been given the chance, because of their lack of experience in Arizona death-penalty cases. Anthony said he wanted the pair to defend him, and questioned why Galati even had called the hearing.

The judge responded, "We're here because you are about to embark on a case that could result in you being strapped to a gurney and a needle being put in your arm and you dying."

If police reports and search warrant affidavits are accurate, the case against David Anthony is a strong circumstantial one, with a classic alleged motive -- money and domestic discord. Prosecutors also are touting blood evidence gathered at Anthony's home, though investigators apparently didn't find the "blood bath" that Arpaio spoke of last summer.

Because the bodies of Donna Anthony and her two children -- who were 14 and 12 at the time they disappeared -- haven't turned up, David Anthony may have a fighting chance at winning a reasonable-doubt acquittal. But he ought not to be overconfident.

Prosecutor Vince Imbordino is a methodical veteran, and long ago earned the nickname "Dr. Death" because of his propensity for putting defendants on death row.

Last November, Galati issued a gag order against all parties talking to the press about the then-pending trial. "Pretrial events," Galati wrote, "indicate that the parties are prepared to try the case in the media and attempt to use the media to influence the jury pool."

Before the gag went into effect, Ulises Ferragut discussed the Anthony case and what it means to him.

"I'm a Cuban-American and I'm a fighter for myself and those I represent," he said, "and I don't appreciate people like Sheriff Joe telling the world that my client is guilty, guilty, guilty. I think my guy is innocent, and I think the County Attorney's Office is afraid that the jury will think so, too.

"But if the perception is that I'm doing this case and other high-profile cases because I crave to be on Barbara Walters, then I guess people really don't understand me."

Ferragut doesn't have to add that, if David Anthony does walk, his fame -- and his business -- will skyrocket even more.

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