Adam Brown

Adam Shane Brown

SIERRA VISTA — A settlement conference in a manslaughter case that’s more than a year old was cancelled after the defendant failed to hire his own attorney. However, at another hearing this week he claimed he is now indigent and possibly in need of surgery.

Those are the latest setbacks in the Adam Shane Brown case, the 25-year-old charged with manslaughter in August 2020.

The matter is one of two criminal cases that involve a death and that have been weighed down by myriad delays by the defense. The other case involves a different defendant charged with the beating death of a 2-year-old boy in January 2020.

Both cases were supposed to begin trial Nov. 2. The trial in the child-killing case has been rescheduled for Nov. 20 after the judge in that matter refused to wait until next fall, which is what the defense attorney had requested.

In the Brown case, a new trial date will not likely be set until the defendant has a new attorney and until that individual gets up to speed on the matter.

Because of a recent shortage of defense attorneys at the courthouse — both public and private lawyers — many criminal cases have suffered continuances. But these two matters are more than a year old and involve violent deaths.

Brown is charged with manslaughter, negligent homicide, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and three counts of endangerment after investigators said he passed a vehicle in a no-passing zone on State Route 80 the morning of Aug. 14, 2020, colliding head-on into a Toyota Prius being driven by Benjamin Saffer in the opposite lane.

The impact, which happened just north of the Mule Pass Tunnel, prompted the Prius to flip over several times, investigators said. Saffer’s fianceé, Suzanne Walsh, a passenger in the front seat, was able to crawl out of the car and drag Saffer out. Walsh, a physical therapist, told the Herald/Review last year that she performed CPR and attempted to revive Saffer, but could not. He died at the scene.

At the time, Brown was driving a work truck and was employed as a welder by a construction company that was working on the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

He has been out on bond for months and at a recent hearing stated he earned over $2,000 a month. Regardless, he had been represented by the county’s Office of the Legal Defender.

That representation collapsed several weeks ago, however, after defense attorney Rodrigo Andrade told Cochise County Superior Court Judge Laura Cardinal that communications between Brown and him had broken down. Addressing the court on his own behalf, Brown told Cardinal that he did not think Andrade was prepared to handle his case.

Upon learning that Brown made a sizeable salary working as a welder, Cardinal informed the defendant that he had to hire his own lawyer and that he should be prepared for a settlement conference in early October. The settlement conference was vacated last week after Brown failed to hire an attorney.

At a hearing Monday, Cardinal asked Brown why he had not yet hired a lawyer. Brown said he was no longer working because of an illness that may require surgery. He said he has been without work for two weeks and can’t afford private counsel.

At that point Cardinal referred Brown’s case to the Cochise County Public Defender’s Office. Newly-appointed Public Defender Eugene Marquez told the judge that he has someone on his staff that he believes can “communicate quite well with Mr. Brown.”

Brown’s next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 15.