The trial against Kouri Richins, the Utah mother accused of poisoning her husband with a lethal dose of fentanyl, will proceed, Judge Richard Mrazik ruled on Friday.
Richins faces drug and murder charges for allegedly giving her husband, Eric Richins, a fatal dose of fentanyl in a drink the night he died.
Richins’ attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case based on allegations of prosecutorial misconduct over a recent filing which has become known as the “walk the dog letter,” for the words written across the top of a six-page handwritten letter from Richins to her mother, Lisa Darden.
During a search of Richins’ jail cell in mid-September, authorities discovered the letter, with instructions for her brother to “testify falsely,” according to a motion for no contact order.
The prosecution asserted in their motion the letter allegedly contains instructions for Richins’ brother to repeat “a false narrative” suggesting her husband had gone to Mexico to buy pain pills and fentanyl. In a separate memorandum filed by the prosecutors, Richins claimed the letter was an excerpt of a “fictional mystery book” in which she and her father go to Mexico to find drugs.
Skye Lazaro, Richins’ attorney, argued prosecutors’ comments in the filing said her client was engaged in witness tampering and her actions illustrate consciousness of guilt, though she has not been charged or convicted of attempting to intervene with the testimony of potential witnesses.
“The court simply isn’t persuaded that the conduct of the Summit County Attorney’s Office violates” the rule of law, said Mrazik. “The court is confident that it can preside over a sufficient vior dire (jury examination and selection) process to ensure that Ms. Richins does in fact receive a fair trial.”
Third-party attorney to review Richins’ writings
The judge also ruled a third-party attorney will review material written by Richins to see if any attorney-client privilege exists.
Prosecutors previously requested defense attorneys for Richins share the letter to her mother as well as approximately 60 pages of writings, which are allegedly a continuation of the “walk the dog” letter.
The judge ordered defense attorneys to submit a form of order by December 1 on their proposed rules of engagement on how to handle the material. Once the rules and the participating parties are set, then the defense will hand over the requested material to determine attorney-client privilege, the judge said.
Judge Mrazik also denied enforcing a gag order and contempt sanctions against prosecutors regarding the letter, citing the argument he made when he denied the earlier motion to dismiss.
The prosecution’s motion for no contact order between Richins and her mother and brother was also denied.
“The defendant has a First Amendment right to correspond with who she pleases and to say what she likes,” said Mrazik in the ruling.
Richins is not allowed to transfer, change the title of or pledge any asset she or her reality company currently holds, Judge Richard Mrazik ruled Friday.
Attorneys representing Katie Richins-Benson, who is the personal representative of Eric Richins estate, argued there is a concern Kouri Richins is using money from a life insurance policy or other proceeds “she wrongfully took.”
The court also established a constructive trust on all property and assets Kouri Richins or her reality company has, and the court will consider a potential transfer or disbursement in the future if it is needed to pay for a criminal defense, Judge Mrazik said.
While a trustee’s bond or the appointment of a receiver were requested by attorneys for Eric Richins estate, the judge did not grant those requests.
Eric Richins, 39, was found dead at the foot of the couple’s bed in March 2022. An autopsy and toxicology report showed he had about five times the lethal dosage of fentanyl in his system, according to a medical examiner.
Richins told investigators at the time she brought her husband a Moscow Mule cocktail in the bedroom of their Kamas, Utah, home, then left to sleep with their son in his room. She said she returned around 3 a.m. to find her husband lying on the floor, cold to the touch.
Around a year to the day after her husband died, Richins published a children’s book, “Are You With Me?” about navigating grief after the loss of a loved one.
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