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Defense attorney: Prosecutors violated rights of Boise stabbing suspect by watching jail interviews without permission

Ruben Diaz, charged with stabbing a 76-year-old man last November, has been having meetings with his attorneys and a psychologist while in jail.
Credit: KTVB
Ruben Diaz in court. (File photo)

BOISE, Idaho — Attorneys representing a Boise man accused of stabbing a 76-year-old man on his front lawn last November say prosecutors violated his constitutional right to attorney-client privilege by obtaining jail surveillance footage of his meetings with attorneys and a psychologist.

Ruben Diaz, 38, is currently in the Ada County Jail, charged with attempted murder, a sentence enhancement for the use of a deadly weapon, and resisting arrest. Police and prosecutors say on Nov. 8 he stabbed Gary Vinsonhaler multiple times on Vinsonhaler’s front lawn in the 3800 block of Preamble Place in southeast Boise. Authorities believe the stabbing was random, and the two men did not know each other.

Diaz had just served 10 years in prison for prior stabbings, and had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia and autism. He told the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole those stabbings occurred after he’d forgotten to take his medication.

RELATED: Boise stabbing suspect has serious criminal history

In November, he was on parole, and living at Hancock House, a nearby assisted living facility. Police and prosecutors believe he left the facility that day and walked over to Vinsonhaler’s home.

Soon after his arrest, attorneys voiced concerns for Diaz’s mental health, and in December a judge ruled Diaz was unfit to stand trial. He committed Diaz to a state hospital to receive treatment, and in April doctors said they believed he was fit to proceed; a judge later made the same finding.

RELATED: Boise stabbing suspect not fit to stand trial

Since then, Diaz has been in the Ada County Jail. His attorneys had arranged for a licensed psychologist, James Davidson, to meet with him. They asked 4th District Judge Jonathan Medema to grant permission for the doctor to visit Diaz alone, but the judge declined. That meant every time the psychologist met with Diaz, attorneys were also present. Prosecutors objected to Davidson’s reports, in which he wrote he believed Diaz believed he was attacking an alien, being used, because Idaho is one of few states without an insanity defense.

Nevertheless, according to an Oct. 17 motion, on Sept. 17, prosecutors asked defense attorneys for “any and all recording(s) and transcript(s) of Dr. Davidson’s interviews with Ruben Diaz.” Diaz’s attorneys would later, on Oct. 1, object to that request, saying Diaz’s conversations with the psychologist were exempt from disclosure.

According to the motion, prosecutors didn’t wait for that response, however. On Sept. 19, “unbeknownst at the time to the defendant or the defense counsel,” prosecutors emailed Corey Brooks, of the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, and asked for “videos of Dr. Davidson’s visits with Ruben Diaz.”

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Brooks responded to the email the next day, according to the motion, saying that “while some video is too old to still be available, that the visits on Aug. 27, 2019 and Aug. 28, 2019 have available video.”

“He notes that both of those visits were scheduled with (Diaz’s attorney) Kyle Schou, but that the video shows Davidson present,” the motion continues.

Diaz’s attorneys didn’t even know prosecutors had those videos until Oct. 8, according to the motion. They emailed prosecutors, asking them not to view the footage until they could schedule a hearing about it. Prosecutors “made no indication that (they) would cease viewing the videos pending hearing.”

As of Oct. 17, Diaz’s attorneys said prosecutors hadn’t given them copies of the videos. Diaz’s attorneys have since reached out to the sheriff’s office’s legal representation and asked the office to wait in turning over any more footage until attorneys can discuss it at a hearing.

That hearing is scheduled to take place Oct. 31.

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