Governor blasts former attorney — may have prejudiced case

February 29, 1988

By SCOTT MCCARTNEY
Associated Press

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Gov. Evan Mecham, absent from the opening day of his impeachment trial in the state Senate, blasted his former attorney for remarks to lawmakers on Monday, and vowed he will be found innocent.

The governor said he had a falling-out with Murray Miller, his lead attorney until last week, when Washington attorney Jerris Leonard was brought in to lead the defense.

Miller, who appeared at Mecham’s Senate trial to formally withdraw from the case, Monday told senators that he was pushed aside by Leonard, calling his arrival in Phoenix last week “a one-man coup.”

Responding to question by Sen. Tony West, R-Phoenix, Miller hinted that the sudden change in legal counsel could weaken Mecham’s defense.

Responding to Miller’s comments from his suburban headquarters, Mecham said, “I’m both disappointed and disgusted by the prejudicial and unnecessary grandstanding by Murray Miller before the Arizona state Senate today.”

“I deeply resent the possible prejudice to me by Mr. Miller’s remarks to the state Senate and do not believe his actions were in my best interest. … I don’t feel too good about what he did.”

The governor said he began a search for more attorneys when it appeared trials in the Senate and state court might overlap. When Leonard was hired as chief counsel because “I felt we have to have a lot more horsepower,” Miller decided to leave, Mecham said.

“I suggested if he did not want to work in a cohesive group then let’s part as friends,” Mecham said.

Mecham said he will not attend the impeachment trial until his attorneys tell him to. He said he hasn’t spent much time tracking the proceedings.

He did say he expects to be acquitted.

“I remain convinced that if I receive a fair trial, the truth will prevail and I will be acquitted,” the governor said.

Mecham said Miller has been paid in full, but he declined to say how much the attorney received.

The governor also denied a published report that top fund-raisers were promised jobs.

“One of the things we can prove was that at every finance meeting, everyone was told, ‘You get nothing but better government,” Mecham said. “It was the cleanest campaign this state has ever seen.”

Mecham said he had had no recent direct contact with acting Gov. Rose Mofford.