A murder defendant will keep his court-appointed attorney despite potential conflicts of interest with people involved in the case of a Turlock man found dead in a remote area of Mariposa County.
Robert Lee Woody is accused of murder and conspiracy to obstruct justice in the death of Korey Kauffman, 26, who went missing in late March 2012. His body was discovered by hunters in August 2013.
In a criminal complaint filed against Woody on March 4, prosecutors listed three other people as co-conspirators B, C and D, but have not revealed their names. Woody, however, remains the only person charged or identified as a suspect in Kauffman’s death.
Bruce Perry, Woody’s defense attorney, told the judge on Thursday that there are four potential conflicts of interest for his law firm, but he didn’t name the people involved. His client has the right to ask the court for a new attorney to ensure he receives a fair trial.
First, there is someone Perry’s firm has represented who is said to be tangentially involved in the case. There also is a woman whose children have been represented by Perry’s firm. The attorney said the woman is a significant witness in the Kauffman murder case.
A private investigator who is said to be somehow involved in the Kauffman case has worked on about 90 percent of the cases handled by Perry’s law firm.
The fourth potential conflict of interest is a defense attorney who handles a lot of cases in Stanislaus Superior Court. Perry told the judge that the attorney is involved in the Kauffman case. Perry also said his firm is representing defendants in pending cases in which a co-defendant is represented by this attorney.
Modesto defense attorney Frank Carson has said his property was searched in 2012 in connection with the Kauffman investigation. Carson says any suggestion he is involved in a homicide is absurd.
Carson’s attorney has advised him not to speak about specific details with news media. His attorney says Carson wants to clear his name, which frequently has been brought up by investigators questioning witnesses and suspects in the Kauffman murder case.
Stockton-based attorney Jeffrey Hirschfield was appointed to advise Woody about the potential conflicts of interests if Perry were to continue to represent him. Hirschfield told the judge Thursday morning that he discussed those issues with Woody after reviewing the case and reading a newspaper article about it.
Woody decided to continue with Perry as his attorney and waive his right to object to those potential conflicts of interest listed. The defendant said in court that he understood what his decision meant.
Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova said they can bring back Hirschfield to advise Woody if any other potential conflicts of interests are identified.
Perry then told the judge that he was expecting to receive more discovery evidence from the prosecution. The judge scheduled Woody to return Aug. 29 for another pretrial hearing. It’s possible the judge then will schedule a preliminary hearing, at which the court determines whether there is enough evidence for the defendant to stand trial.
Woody, 39, of Turlock remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail. His bail remains set at $2 million.