Embattled Utah trooper Lisa Steed appears in court as a witness
Former Utah Highway Patrol Cpl. Lisa Steed on Monday was where police officers should be in the aftermath of making an arrest in a courtroom prepared to testify in a driving-under-the-influence case.
But nothing was typical about Steed's appearance in a Salt Lake City justice court. She was wearing a black pantsuit, not the UHP brown and gray uniform. And instead of talking about the defendant accused of DUI, attorneys talked only about Steed.
Such is the life of Steed. Since two judges earlier this year found she lied on the witness stand, and a 2010 memo suggesting she was falsifying arrest reports emerged, even the routine is complicated. After arguments back and forth from attorneys on Monday, Judge L.G. Cutler postponed the otherwise obscure DUI trial and scheduled a hearing for Feb. 25.
It remains to be seen how many other cases Steed has pending and what's happening to them. Some prosecutors, including at the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office and the Davis County Attorney's Office, have said they are not proceeding with cases in which Steed is a primary witness, but other prosecutors have elected to continue with Steed.
The defendant in Monday's case was Bernice B. Martinez, 53. Steed arrested her July 11, 2010, on suspicion of driving under the influence. She was charged with a count of driving with a measurable amount of a controlled substance in her bloodstream and three other misdemeanor traffic violations.
Defense attorney Jesse Nix on Sunday said he was prepared to argue the case should be dismissed because the amount of drugs in Martinez's body were too low to cause impairment and any testimony from Steed is unreliable. Nix is upset the case is proceeding at all and sent emails to reporters Sunday informing them of the case.
On Monday, defense attorney Lacey Singleton told Cutler the case should be dismissed because the 2010 memo was exculpatory, and prosecutors failed to provide it to the defense. The Salt Lake Tribune reported on the memo in October.
Singleton raised the possibility that prosecutors and UHP have more evidence Steed falsely arrested suspects.
"We may have knowledge of some of the things that are out there," Singleton said. "We have no way of knowing everything that's out there."
Prosecutor Steve Newton said the defense filed its dismissal motion too late and that prosecutors provided the defense everything it had anyway. It was UHP that withheld the memo, Newton said.
Cutler did not rule on the dismissal motion, but did agree the trial should be postponed while attorneys determine what documents exist.
"It seems like it's fundamental fairness [Steed's personnel records] should be provided," Cutler said.
Steed sat expressionless behind prosecutors as she listened to the judge and attorneys. She did not make any statements as she left the courtroom.
UHP in November terminated Steed, though she is contesting the firing through the appeals process available to state employees.
Some of the people Steed has arrested filed a lawsuit Friday in federal court against Steed and the UHP, saying they were arrested and in some cases later convicted of DUI when they were sober. The group wants to make the lawsuit a class action.
One of the plaintiff attorneys, Michael Studebaker, said the FBI is investigating Steed for possible civil-rights violations. Ten of Studebaker's clients have met with FBI agents, he said.