EL RENO — A judge Thursday allowed attorneys for a man accused of fatally strangling his former girlfriend and her four children to withdraw from the case.
Canadian County District Judge Gary Miller granted a request from lawyers with the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System to no longer represent Joshua Steven Durcho, 27, after the lawyers declared a conflict of interest.
While no indication of the conflict was given in court or by attorneys, the action came almost two months after Durcho and another murder defendant allegedly had a failed escape attempt from the Canadian County jail. Durcho and Jeremy Alan Pendleton, who also was represented by Oklahoma Indigent Defense attorneys at the time, were really never a threat to escape, Sheriff Randall Edwards said.
While ruling Thursday a conflict of interest had developed between defense attorneys and Durcho, Miller declined to postpone the Sept. 13 trial.
Miller said he would consider changing the trial date after new attorneys are appointed.
Durcho has pleaded not guilty in the Jan. 12, 2009, killings of Summer Rust; her daughters, Kirsten Rust, 7, Autumn Rust, 7, and Evynn Garas, 3; and her son, Teagin Rust, 4.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Durcho, who appeared at the hearing in shackles, an
Defense attorneys and the prosecution declined to comment after the hearing. Court filings on the matter have been placed under seal and are not publicly available.
The entire Oklahoma Indigent Defense Capital Division in Norman has declared the conflict.
No indication of who would be Durcho's next attorney was given, although the public defender system does have a capital division in the Tulsa area and also contracts with private attorneys qualified to handle death penalty cases.
Judge Miller said the conflict arose after the state filed an amended bill of particulars.
The original bill of particulars stated several reasons why prosecutors think the death penalty is warranted.
The amended bill of particulars was filed under seal on July 9.
The court document was filed after Durcho and Pendleton allegedly tried to escape on June 24. A day earlier, Miller denied defense attorneys' request to move the trial to another location because of pretrial publicity.
Pendleton was trying to remove mortar from a wall so he could get into Durcho's adjacent cell, Edwards said.
Durcho was doing the same in another wall that adjoins an exterior exercise area.
The wall is steel reinforced, and the exercise area was surrounded by a tall security fence.
"It wasn't anything of any threat to security or anything where they were even close to getting out," Edwards said.
"They weren't going anywhere if they had removed the mortar."
At the time of the escape attempt, Oklahoma Indigent Defense System attorneys from the capital division also represented Pendleton, according to court records.
Pendleton is charged in connection with the stabbing death of an 18-year-old in El Reno on March 28.