SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) — Kouri Richins, the Utah mother and children’s book author accused of poisoning and killing her husband with fentanyl, appeared in court Friday regarding a motion to dismiss her trial — that motion was denied.
Kouri Richins’ defense claimed that the state has perpetrated a false narrative through the release of the ‘Walk the Dog’ letter, asserting that Richins will not receive a fair trial based on the public’s belief that she was involved in witness tampering.
Judge Mrazik refuted the claims, claiming the case had already received an “inordinate” amount of media coverage, and that that coverage is protected under the First Amendment. He also denied the state’s attempt to restrict Richins from communicating with her mother and brother, again citing the First Amendment.
Additionally, the defense claimed that the Summit County Sheriff’s Office should no longer be overseeing the case, as they released the letter.
The state claimed that the letter itself is an admission of guilt, or as the state referred to it, “consciousness of guilt.”
“The issue is that they have just declared that she’s guilty of it,” Richins’ defense claimed. They continued to suggest that the state should “correct the narrative” by taking the Summit County Sheriff’s Office off of the case.
The judge answered by saying that the state has every right to assert that Richins is guilty.
Judge Mrazik went as far as to say, “Is there anybody in the state of Utah that believes she isn’t guilty?” to which the defense replied, “I sure hope so.”
The question implies that Richins’ guilt is not the question here, saying the comments, or the state’s assertion of witness tampering, “are anchored to evidence in the record and motions made by the parties.”
While the judge made it clear that the evidence is pertinent to the case, he said that the process of selecting unbiased jurors will be of vital importance, and the process of finding them may be “lengthy.”
Here is Judge Mrazik’s denial of the motion to dismiss:
When viewed in isolation these comments raise concern that they would cause undue prejudice by tainting the view of potential jurors in summit county, the state of utah, nationally and internationally regarding Ms. Richins, her credibility, credibility of her counsel and her ability to defend her self in a fair jury trial. But when read in context, and given how these comments are anchored to evidence in the record and motions made by the parties, these comments are within the bounds of professional conduct. These are examples of permissible advocacy in support of its request things like further limitations on Ms. Richins ability to discuss, contact, or correspond with certain family members.
Before this issue arose relatively recently this case had already received an inordinate amount of media attention. An amount so large that it is frankly not in the interest of justice but the first amendment works the way it works and I can’t prevent that from happening. What the court can do, it can require counsel from the defense and the state to engage in is measures to mitigate any potential harm from publicity on this case on a going forward basis.
This is a developing story. Information is expected to change as more details become available. ABC4.com expects to update the story below.