After hearing evidence for several days in a murder case in Parker, the trial judge dismissed the entire case due to a lack of evidence, chastising prosecutor Karen Hobbs in the process, dismissing the jury and letting the defendant go free.
The unusual ruling was made in response to a motion by the defendant under Rule 20, which states that the court must issue a judgment of acquittal “if there is no substantial evidence to support a conviction.” Judge Matthew Newman cut the trial short with the ruling after several days of Hobbs’ presentation of the evidence against defendant Marcos Ricardo Ruiz-Zazueta, a Mexican national charged in La Paz County last year.
Hobbs, who is running for Newman’s seat on the Superior Court bench, hasn’t had a good run lately. Less than three weeks ago, a high-profile triple homicide case was dismissed by Newman before it got to trial after he said she had been “play[ing] games with the speedy trial rules” rather than properly preparing the case. This time, Newman went as far as to suggest that a disciplinary hearing may be in order.
After he began to outline his reasons for dismissing the counts against the defendant, Newman noticed Hobbs had stood up, as though to address the court.
Newman: “Ms. Hobbs, you’re standing. Did you…?”
Hobbs: “Yes Judge, the State would ask the court to delay its ruling for 60 minutes or for 30 minutes. The reason is that the State has filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for a stay. The state would ask that the court would allow 60 or 30 minutes to see if that is resolved.”
Newman: “This court appreciates and encourages zealous advocacy, but there’s a [inaudible] constantly arguing with the court, flaunting the court’s rulings, and engaging in late disclosure tactics could well be the subject of a disciplinary proceeding. I am struggling with the decision on whether I have a duty to submit a transcript of this trial to the proper committee. The court appreciates that the State disagrees with what the court is about to do, the State definitely has a right to file any special action or any other legal proceeding it wishes to take. But that’s not going to be heard now.”
Authorities say Ruiz-Zazueta drove and Rodolfo Ballardo was riding shotgun in a blue 2008 Ford Mustang in September 2017. They were on Interstate 10 in rural La Paz County when a DPS trooper pulled them over for a routine reason, which Newman said was having blue lights on their vehicle.
“The defendant was the driver of a blue Mustang, who was pulled over for having blue lights on his car by Trooper McDonald,” Newman said in his ruling. “He yielded immediately and was contacted by the trooper. A warrant check came back clear. Ruiz was outside the car conversing with McDonald. The passenger, Mr. Bollardo, gave the trooper a false name. Becoming rightly suspicious, McDonald approached the passenger side. Incredibly and unexpectedly, Ballardo got out of the car and fired a weapon at McDonald who somehow had the presence of mind to react as quickly as he did and deflect the weapon. Trooper’s body cam was dislodged during the gunfight. It all happened very quickly, and the next time the trooper saw Ruiz he was diving out of the car onto the road. Ballardo drove off and after a series of incidents was shot and killed by the police. Ruiz began immediately asking McDonald if he was okay. Ruiz was taken into custody, cooperated fully and was placed in the back of the patrol unit.”
A car chase ended with Ballardo running on foot, allegedly breaking into a semi truck and beating the driver before stealing the truck. A shootout with cops in Quartzsite, AZ ended with Ballardo in hospital. He later died.
Ruiz-Zazueta was charged as Ballardo’s accomplice under the felony murder rule, which holds that the killing of a person occurring in the course of, or in the immediate flight from, the commission of some crimes is considered murder in the first degree. The felony murder rule was successfully prosecuted in the same courtroom in 2015 when Victor Silva was convicted in similar circumstances.
But Newman’s ruling found that there was no evidence that Ruiz-Zazueta was in the middle of committing any felony. He was charged with misconduct involving weapons, aggravated assault on a peace officer, unlawful flight from law enforcement, transportation of dangerous drugs for sale and conspiracy to transport dangerous drugs for sale, but the court found that there was no substantial evidence for any of it.
Hobbs suggested that when Bollardo exited the vehicle and shot at the trooper, Ruiz-Zazueta’s act of getting back into the car constituted an attempt to flee from law enforcement. But Newman said that was just speculation:
“As to the unlawful flight, […] it is unknown from the evidence why Ruiz returned to the car. We can speculate, but as [case law] holds, speculation concerning possibilities is not evidence for the consideration of the jury. The motion for acquittal as to unlawful flight is granted.”
With respect to drugs, Newman said, “There were no drugs located on Bollardo, Ruiz or in the car. Yesterday the state agreed that the Rule 20 motion as to that count should be granted.”
Newman concluded by saying, “All charges having been dismissed, Mr. Zazueta will be immediately released from custody, if he’s not held for any other reasons. Mr. Welch and Ms. Quickle are released as counsel of record if they want to be.”
He then gave Hobbs the chance to speak on behalf of any special action she wanted to take in the wake of the case’s dismissal.
“Judge, the only record is there is no possible special action, no possible appeal after the court has acquitted, according to Rule 20,” she responded. “The state has no redress and will do absolutely nothing. We’re done, this is it. Thank you sir.”
Newman: “Again, that’s up to you, and what the law says.”
Hobbs: “Yes sir.”
When the jury came back into the courtroom, they got the surprising news.
Newman: “Ladies and gentlemen, the State rested their case. At that time the court has a duty to follow what’s called the motions for directed verdict, which the court must grant if the court is of the opinion that the evidence presented by the state is insufficient to support a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. This court has done that. All charges against the defendant have been dismissed, you are released from jury duty with our great thanks, you are released from the admonition.”
Two candidates running for Newman’s seat were involved in this trial, with Hobbs as prosecutor and Jessica Quickle as an attorney for the defense, along with Fred Welch. Hobbs and Quickle are both on the ballot in next month’s election for Superior Court Judge. Newman announced his intention to retire earlier this year.
Who is the prosecutor in this county? When does he come up for a vote?
Btw.. the guy killed WASN’T an upstanding member of the community. This .. guy, tried to murder a police officer.
That’s right luck was on his side
With All the cops are you kidding me???
Now all can see what a fool the Roger’s and Hobbs show is all about….I did my best to let LaPaz County know this team was a circus of foolios. Thanks to Parker Live for helping to spell it all out. This has been going on for several years. The Victims Advocate office is just as bad. Hobbs threatened to file charges against ME, a victim after she was reported to the State for a violation of a victims rights. Rogers… well he keeps Hobbs around to keep the heat off himself. In fact, during a recorded meeting, he actually threw Hobbs under the bus. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time. Do you really want that idiodicy in your Superior Court? REMEMBER this next election….Rogers is part of your problem too. He just thinks hes a little slicker. Mayb he is…..
Marilyn Smith the prosecutor on two of the cases mentioned in this article is none other than Karen hobbs, yes the one running for superior court judge.
What’s scary is that this prosecutor is running for superior court judge, smh.
No believing this BS
Who is this person?
Her political ambitions blinded her in doing her job effectively as a prosecutor. The first priority is to have evidence and air tight case before going to court..in her rush to notch a win on her political resume, she put an alleged murder back on the streets . Disgusting
How about the county fire both for screwing up to major ass cases … wtf
Dawn Cook Great. I voted for someone else. Thanks for the info.
He didn’t kill anyone !!
Joe Sena read the full story
Anyone else think “lack of evidence” means “someone got paid?”
Don’t get caught with a joint in oarker…buttttt….ATT.MURDER IS OK….this Hobbs needs to go can’t do her job and now wants a judge seat no f-n way
“Never give a clown too many balls to juggle.” -Will Leamon
Let’s be blunt. 3 murder trials in a row and each time chastised by the judge. Doug is right Get caught with a joint and your life is ruined. Murder..no big deal.
Lack of evidence means the prosecutor does not know what they are doing
Blacki- Isn’t it possible that the case against this guy simply isn’t very solid? As far as I can tell by looking at it, Ballardo was the alleged perpetrator of everything in the story.
Can u say ..Oh! Now I get it. He should not have been charged felony murder as “the evidence is not very solid” and “Ballardo was the alleged perp..”
And u are not an attorny but can see this.
Calling a jury for trial is a very big expense and a big cost of taxpayer time. Something inexcusable for a seasoned attorney.
Blacki…do you have any recommendations for who would be best to be the next county attorney? You seem to have some special insight.
This is a small community..most know Hobb’s husband built Mr rogers’ home..
…is this propper?
…of course she is not losing her job until a new county attorney is elected
Unfortunately our county does not draw hi caliber people to fill most important jobs as reflected by current status of town manager, county attorny, county assessor, general financial status of the county, and probably a few other departments.
..moreover..we’ll have to wait and see if and whom might be interested in 2 years. There are only a few persons qualified. And they may not want the hornets nest.
Who should run that office?
The caliber is low quite often I remember my grandson ran afoul with the law and had to deal with the probation department about 8 or 9 years ago. That man and woman who were running it did not know what they were doing. His top assistant had a lot a jewelry. Both of them did hardly nothing and drew county money all the time. But that is the way the county is and now they are probably living big off fat retirement incomes.
Ambrose ..you should lead the county attorny office. As long as you have a law degree. Or run the probation office. It only requires a Masters degree.
I’m sure they are ambrose. Probably living in prescott too.
Another reality is that any good attorney can make many times over the salary of the county attorney by getting off drug dealers and murderers as long as the current staff is there. So, no incentive. And not many people spend 7 years in college because they want to be the contious and protector of citizens.
Blacki, I check it out and the people before Tony Rodgers are Steven Suskind, Glen Bucklelew, Martin Brennen and Samuel Verdeman can we get any of them back and were they any good?
I see all have attacked Karen Hobbs in this matter. My question is WHERE THE DEVIL WAS HER LEAD MAN-TONY ROGERS Didn’t he have the last case and “gave” it to Karen to finish? Did he not meet where his staff member on these two important chases, review the evidence or lack thereof and decide to go forward or pull the cases?
Doesn’t he monitor his office, because these were two very important cases. Sounds like she HAS been thrown to the dogs and the Judge, who may have some bias, has landed on her with both feet when at lease one boot and some of the criticism may be better placed on her boss. I reviewed my subordinates work, why didn’t he do this? And I like all parties in this case and have voted for them but I feel there is some piling on in the handling of this matter.
Michael Penn, you seem to have close knowledge to Ms. Hobbs. You and Blacki know details. Please share more knowledge with us.
As jack nicleon said..You can’t handle the truth. Nice try mike. As I previously said, this is a small community. Some suggest you have a personal and social conection to hobbs..humm. she don’t get a free pass because her boss is inept too.
Ambrose. .one common thread is Vederman as county attorney and then judge b4 Newman. The are reasons he did not finish his term and abandoned ship b4 the state sanctioned him and civil law suits exposed him. Moreover, his name appears at the top of this site as main advertizer so you won’t get much help here. Keep asking questions Ambrose. Especially to anyone that has crossed his path. To the dedicated administrative court staff. Thank you.
Blacki, I have seen that before when people scurry away because they will be exposed and Verdeman must eb no different. This sight probably wont do much because they like his money and don’t want to lose it. It must have been serious heat for him to abandone ship. Tell us what he did to get sanctioned and have civil suits against him.
Amb..u and I are the only two readers left as apparent by the community complacency on the Majic gift cards story and Assessor error that ‘won’t affect tax payers’.. These are the things an investigatve reporter or news man with a spine should be exposing before we puke and move away. However, I did learn what Occams Razer is.
To the editor. .thank you for the coverage you do bring and this forum..the print news and local radio station deserve far more criticism for the sugar coating and failed obligation as news source.
Blacki, I guess you are right and we are the last two in here but I thank you for the information. Judt would have been nice if you gave us all the details. It seems like you are holding back knowledge we should all know about. God bless you though for making us know about this.