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Kouri Richins gets new defense after ‘irreconcilable situation’ with previous team



Salt Lake City, Utah – Kouri Richins, who is charged with killing her husband in 2022 by poisoning a drink with fentanyl, has a new defense team after her last legal counsel requested to be dropped from the case.

Richins’ previous legal representation, Ray, Quinney & Nebeker, was officially replaced at a status hearing on Friday. This was due to the fact that 3rd District Judge Richard Mrazik granted a motion to withdraw and appointed new counsel after determining that Richins is indigent, meaning she is unable to pay for legal representation. According to court documents, Wendy Lewis and Kathy Nester’s indigent defense services will be paid for by Summit County.

The legal firm Nester/Lewis was assigned to handle Richins’ case, and Wendy Lewis showed up via WebEx to receive the appointment.

Nester and Lewis have both worked for years as federal public defenders and have a great deal of expertise defending well-known cases.

Nester was appointed as the Federal Public Defender for the District of Utah in 2011, and her bio on the firm’s website states that she oversaw more than two dozen Assistant Federal Public Defenders as well as paralegals, detectives, and administrative staff. She was employed by Federal Defenders of San Diego in 2018 as executive director. In 2022, she went back to Utah to establish Nester and Lewis, PLLC alongside her friend and previous colleague Lewis.

According to Lewis’ biography, she was acquitted of multiple charges, including first-degree murder in the State of Utah v. John Blanchard case, where the death penalty was avoided. She also contributed to the United States v. Brian David Mitchell case, in which Mitchell is incarcerated for life after kidnapping and raping Elizabeth Smart.

Lewis informed the judge that she would be meeting Richins at the jail on Monday, as Nester is now abroad.

The defense will need to analyze all of the discovery materials that Ray Quinney & Nebeker will be providing them, therefore there will be a round of rescheduling with the new counsel.

In a late filing on Friday, the state notified Ray Quinney & Nebeker that, with the exception of information pertaining to its obligations under the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, it must return, sequester, or destroy the information identified in the State’s Third Discovery Certification as well as any information placed in the discovery file since May 2, 2024. The same document also forbids the firm from “disseminating, selling, publishing to any third party, or using in any other proceeding, context, or presentation unless or until any such claim is resolved under Rule 26(b)(9)(B) or by order of the court” with regard to information that the State has given it in this case.

The document also serves as a warning to Ray Quinney & Nebeker that disclosing details or photos related to Eric Richins’ demise and autopsy “would constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress to Eric Richins’ surviving family members and be a violation of their constitutional rights under the Utah Constitution.”

At the June 18, 19, and 20 Richins preliminary, Judge Mrazik asked Lewis, “I do not see June 18th though being a viable date since I understand there are multiple terabytes of discovery.”
After serving as a prosecutor, Nathan Evershed is currently a criminal defense lawyer. Although he is not involved in this case, he believes that Lewis and Nester will need to receive a large order of discovery materials from the former legal firm, which will need to be stored on external hard drives and flash drives.

He continues, “Lots of time those terabytes of discovery involve video, photographs, PDF’s and documents.” In regard to this particular instance, Evershed adds, “It looks like there are many, many different rabbit holes that are various different directions and it’s not surprising to me in the least that there would be terabytes of information in this case.” It’s a lot of information, he argues, and understandable in this kind of instance.

He adds, “As I follow this case, this investigation has been multi-layered and very, very deep.”
Furthermore, he asserts that Nester and Lewis have the right to examine this in advance of a significant hearing, like Richins’ preliminary hearing. According to him, it’s common for the new defense squad to desire and require a considerable amount of time to adjust.

“This is something any of the individuals have not looked at any of the discovery as of yet and for them to adequately, constitutionally, as required in the United States Constitution to provide competent counsel- they really have to get a strong awareness of this case and begin to know what it’s all about,” Evershed said.

What comes next, according to Evershed, is that a fresh preliminary hearing won’t be held for a few months. Exactly what he said: “many, many months.”

He says Nester and Lewis are a “very, very experienced team, well-respected as well.” He says, “I have seen in the course of my career both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney, that sometimes-fresh eyes, fresh outlook and fresh conversations can be very, very good in a case.”

He continued, “What Kouri Richins has is a very good team, very experienced attorneys who are well known in the legal community and will work very hard for her.”

To negotiate new hearing dates, Judge Mrazik scheduled a scheduling conference for June 21.

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