Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas has been ordered to personally attend a settlement conference in a death penalty case -- and may have attend many more such hearings.
Two years ago, Thomas wanted Judge Timothy Ryan to recuse himself from cases involving the County Attorney's Office, claiming Ryan showed bias against a law disallowing illegal immigrants to get out of jail on bond.
Now the two are tangling over the issue of death-penalty cases. Ryan says Thomas has set himself up as the only person in the County Attorney's Office deciding which murderers should be put to death. Because of that, Ryan ordered Thomas to show up personally at a hearing at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow in the case of Matthew Frank McEvoy, who's on trial for the 2007 murder of Francisco Zamora.
Thomas argues that, because of this ruling, he might be required to attend hearings in all 116 of Arizona's pending death-penalty cases, or maybe even all 40,000 or so felony cases his office prosecutes each year. Ryan accuses Thomas' office of ignoring state Supreme Court rules in the matter.
UPDATE 9/18/09: Changes in the case make the Thomas appearance a moot point, so Thomas didn't need to go to the hearing after all. Thomas tells the Arizona Republic that the capital case will move forward.