Arizona Lawyer Accused of Misconduct for Releasing Video of Police Beating His Client Bloody

Is police body cam footage part of the "public record"?


|||Screenshot via YouTube/ and The Arizona Republic
Screenshot via YouTube/ and The Arizona Republic

Bret Royle is an Arizona defense attorney currently representing Jose Luis Conde, a 32-year-old man who was pulled over in a traffic stop and later accused of drug possession. In June, Royle gave the Arizona Republic body camera footage that showed officers in the Mesa Police Department beating his client during a January arrest. Reports say Conde was unarmed at the time. He was repeatedly punched and elbowed while being handcuffed just before officers said they found cocaine in his socks. The footage also captures at least one officer mocking Conde as he lies in a pool of his own blood on the floor of the hospital.

Now, the Maricopa County prosecutor is accusing Royle of misconduct.

Prosecutor Riley Figueroa filed a memo to Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Frank Moskowitz saying that Royle engaged in misconduct when he shared the body camera footage with journalists. She reportedly cited disclosure standards found in Rule 15.4(d) of the Arizona Court Rules of Criminal Procedure and asserted that Royle was only allowed to speak publicly on "information contained in a public record," via ER 3.6. of the Rules of Professional Conduct found in the Arizona state bar.

Arizona Republic reported that it was of legal opinion that Figueroa's claim was not only an intimidation tactic against Royle, but an attempt to "create a double standard between prosecutors and defense lawyers over who can speak publicly about a public record." Additionally, lawyers argued that the video in question was to be fully considered "public record."

"The prosecutor and police are arms of the state. If the prosecutor and police are allowed to speak about a case to the media, defense counsel should be afforded the same rights and privileges to defend their clients under the law," criminal defense attorney Benjamin Taylor told the publication. Private attorney Tom Irvine said, "The entire policy of the County Attorney's Office is to chill public access from cases, which is not supported by state law." While speaking on the body camera footage, Irvine also argued that "just because it's an exhibit in a case, it doesn't change the fact that it's a public record."

Royle has since asked for the memo to be stricken from the record, saying, "The State's filing serves no purpose other than to disparage defense counsel's conduct in this case, a purpose it disguises as alleged 'concerns about potential jury tainting' and 'preserving the record.'"

After the initial release of the video, the police department touted a "a process for transparency that requires full disclosure which is not always achievable by the media" in a Facebook post.