Colorado

2 Colorado juries reject death penalty in a month: Will Colorado ever execute a criminal again?


DENVER – Two Colorado juries have rejected the death penalty for mass murderers in a single month. Add to that the governor’s controversial decision to grant clemency to the last killer who was supposed to be executed, and it begs a question: Will Colorado ever use the death penalty again?
Jurors in Arapahoe County, the only Colorado County that currently has killers awaiting the death penalty, could not unanimously agree to sentence the Aurora movie theater gunman to die by lethal injection. Instead, the man who killed 12 people and wounded 70 others during a movie premiere was sentenced to 12 lifetimes in prison plus 3,318 years — one of the longest prison terms in history.
Just days later, a Denver County jury decided that mitigating factors were sufficient to stop the process in pursuit of the death penalty for the man who stabbed five people to death in a bar that was subsequently set on fire. The mitigating factors included an abusive childhood.
“The question everybody is asking is if these cases didn’t justify handing out the death penalty, executing somebody, what case could possible merit that?” said former Douglas County judge Jim Miller.
Miller says concerns ranging from the cost of trying a death penalty case to morality are fueling opposition.
“I think a combination of those factors make it very unlikely that you’ll anyone executed in Colorado again,” said Miller.
Yet, just last month, a poll found Colorado voters wanted death, two-to-one, in the theater shooting case.
“I think it’s worth a conversation, but the idea that Coloradans have moved on from the death penalty is not accurate,” said Arapahoe district attorney George Brauchler, who prosecuted the theater shooting case.
Under Colorado law, juries must unanimously agree to impose death sentences. In the theater case, one juror was steadfast against the death penalty and at least one juror sided with Lewis’ defense team’s presentation of mitigating factors.
The Colorado legislature last tried to repeal the death penalty in 2013. Supporters of repeal argued that the death penalty is applied unfairly and arbitrarily. But the bill died in committee as Democratic lawmakers wavered on doing away with capital punishment. Governor Hickenlooper, a fellow Democrat, had signaled he might veto the bill. His office had issued a statement saying, “the governor has conflicting feelings about the death penalty. Those feelings are still unresolved.”
Death penalty facts:
  • No Denver jury has sentenced someone to death since 1986.
  • Colorado has not executed anyone since 1997.
  • State law requires the Colorado Supreme Court to review all death sentences and defense appeals typically last more than a decade. Afterward, the court that oversaw the case must issue a death warrant indicating the week in which the lethal injection would occur.
  • Colorado law dictates that the death penalty can only be carried out by means of a “continuous intravenous injection of a lethal quantity of sodium thiopental or other equally or more effective substance.”
Three other convicted killers are currently awaiting executions in Colorado, but they were all sentenced between 5 and 20 years ago.
Sir Mario Owens: A jury sentenced Sir Mario Owens to death on June 16, 2008 for the 2005 ambush murders of Vivian Wolfe and her fiance, Javad Marshall-Fields, who were gunned down in their car at an Aurora intersection. Javad Marshall-Fields was scheduled to testify against Owens’ friend Robert Ray.
Robert Ray: A jury sentenced Robert Ray, a 23-year-old drug dealer, to death on June 8, 2009, for planned and ordering the killings of Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancée Vivian Wolfe.
Nathan Dunlap: He was sentenced to death in 1996 for shooting to death four employees at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant in 1993. In May 2013, Dunlap was three months from a scheduled execution when Gov. John Hickenlooper granted him a controversial “temporary reprieve.” In a move that outraged Dunlap’s victims, the governor said, “Colorado’s system of capital punishment is imperfect and inherently inequitable.” While it’s unlikely that Hickenlooper will reconsider executing Dunlap, a future governor could agree to carry out the execution.
Source: 7News Denver, Marc Stewart, Phil Tenser, Alan Gathright, August 28, 2015

 

Advertisements

Colorado lawmakers bump into death-row inmate Nathan Dunlap


August 17, 2015

In June, four Colorado legislators got face-to-face with death row inmate Nathan Dunlap, the Chuck E. Cheese killer whose execution was postponed last October by Gov. John Hickenlooper to the dismay of many pro-death-penalty Coloradans.

Like they do most summers, these members of the Capital Development Committee were touring state colleges, universities and other facilities to find out how taxpayers’ dollars are being spent and to consider future funding requests.

The June 8-10 tour took the committee to northeastern Colorado, to tour the Sterling Correctional Facility, which houses the state’s three death row inmates.

Legislators on the Sterling visit were Reps. Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland and J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio; and Sens. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs and Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling.

According to the legislators, the accidental encounter was uneventful and Dunlap was “very polite.”

Baumgardner said Dunlap came out of an elevator with a guard and had to walk through the group of mostly pro-death-penalty lawmakers because the space was so tight.

The inmate was held by the arm by the guard and was in full chains and shackles, according to Vigil.

“We were surprised,” Baumgardner said, and he believed Dunlap was as well.

Vigil described the situation as “surreal. It took me a second to recognize him,” he said.

“It’s a pretty nice facility,” Baumgardner said of the prison. There are things that need to be looked at, but that’s true for all of the state’s prisons, he added.

As to how meeting Dunlap impacted their opinions about the death penalty, the encounter didn’t change any minds, according to the legislators.

 

A Life Sentence for James Holmes, Aurora Theater Gunman Who Killed 12


CENTENNIAL, Colo., — A jury sentenced James E. Holmes to life in prison with no chance of parole on Friday, rejecting the death penalty for the man who carried out a 2012 shooting rampage that killed 12 people in a Colorado movie theater.
As the courtroom waited for Judge Carlos Samour Jr. to review the verdict, only the sound of him turning pages could be heard. Minutes later, he read each sentence of life, a decision that was a surprise to many in the courtroom.
Since Mr. Holmes was convicted last month of more than 160 counts of murder and attempted murder, his lawyers and prosecutors have been putting questions of his fate before a jury of nine women and three men.
Prosecutors, emphasizing the human toll and indiscriminate cruelty of opening fire on a happy crowd of moviegoers, argued that he should join the three other men on Colorado’s death row. They argued that toll he exacted was so great, and the indiscriminate rampage so horrible, that death by lethal injection was the only just punishment.
But defense lawyers said it was not hatred or a desire for notoriety that propelled Mr. Holmes to plot and carry out the massacre, but a deepening form of schizophrenia that infected his mind with powerful delusions that killing people somehow increased his “human capital.”
To reach a death sentence, jurors had to agree unanimously. If even one person dissents, the sentence is life in prison.
Jurors deliberated for less than a day before reaching their conclusion. They had walked to the precipice of sentencing Mr. Holmes to death, agreeing after earlier sentencing deliberations that he was eligible to receive the death penalty.
But defense lawyers emphasized that jurors had no legal obligation to sentence him to death, and they urged jurors to listen to their own moral compasses no matter what other jurors wanted.
Source: The New York Times, Jack Healy, August 7, 2015

 

Not a killing state: Is Colorado prepared for the death penalty?


The majority of Coloradans want their state to kill James Holmes. But if he receives the death penalty, the Department of Corrections may not be ready.
Convicted murderer James Holmes is now awaiting his sentence.
He faces the death penalty for his crimes, a punishment 2/3 of Coloradans believe he deserves.
But lethal injection drugs are increasingly hard to obtain. If the jury sentences Holmes to death, is Colorado actually capable of carrying it out?
Like all 31 states that still allow capital punishment, Colorado uses lethal injection as its primary means of execution. But it almost never happens: The 1997 death of Gary Lee Davis remains the state’s only execution in almost 50 years, and the only time Colorado has ever performed a lethal injection. We are, in the words of death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean, “not a killing state.”
The Colorado Department of Corrections, tasked with performing executions, doesn’t even keep drugs for the procedure on hand. Their shelf life is less than the average 10 years it takes for a death penalty appeals process.
In March of 2013, 5 months before death row inmate Nathan Dunlap was scheduled for execution, The Denver Post reported that CDOC was still struggling to acquire a crucial drug.
Tom Clements, CDOC’s then-director, wrote a letter to 97 compounding pharmacies across the state in an attempt to acquire sodium thiopental, a rapid-onset anesthetic critical to the state’s lethal 3-drug cocktail.
Clements sought the pharmacies’ help because the drug is now nearly impossible to find ready-made. Hospira Inc, the only producer in the nation, stopped making it in 2011. The E.U. has blocked its export for use in executions. But compounding pharmacies are less than eager. In March this year, the American Pharmacists Association called upon its members to stop providing any drugs for use in executions.
In light of Clements’ letter, the ACLU in 2013 submitted an open records request to CDOC asking for a copy of its execution protocol. (The agency initially didn’t comply, forcing the ACLU to file a lawsuit.)
What they found was troubling. Colorado law demands lethal injection be administered with “a lethal quantity of sodium thiopental or other equally or more effective substance sufficient to cause death.”
The protocol from 2011 calls for Sodium Pentothal, the name brand of sodium thiopental. But the 2013 protocol, with no change in state law, calls for “Sodium Pentothal/Pentobarbital,” implying that the 2 are interchangeable despite being 2 different drugs. (When pentobarbital was used in the 2014 Oklahoma execution of Michael Wilson, he reportedly said he felt his “whole body burning.”)
Colorado is not the only state scrambling for alternatives. Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah have authorized the use of the gas chamber, electrocution and the firing squad, respectively, if lethal injection drugs become unavailable. And the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that midazolam, the controversial drug linked to multiple botched or prolonged executions across the country, is constitutional for use in lethal injections.
Ultimately, the ACLU’s investigation came to a halt when Gov. John Hickenlooper granted Dunlap an indefinite stay of execution. But the discrepancy between protocol and state law raises concerns about the secrecy that goes along with lethal injection.
How can the public stay informed about the death penalty when no organization will publicly admit to selling the drugs? How do we determine what drugs count as an “equally or more effective substance to cause death” without being able to properly test them?
Gov. Hickenlooper’s stay of execution for Dunlap means the state, at least for now, isn’t actively seeking out lethal injection drugs. His office didn’t return requests for comment, but the governor has said publicly that he will not allow an execution during his term. The other 2 men on death row will not exhaust their appeals for years.
If sentenced to death, James Holmes can expect the appeals process to take 10 years or more.
By that time, Colorado’s lethal injection protocol – and indeed, its stance on the death penalty – could look quite different.
Source: The Colorado Independent, July 30, 2015

Guilty Verdict for James Holmes in Aurora Attack


JULY 16, 2015

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Inside Courtroom 201, the families of the dead and wounded watched in taut silence on Thursday afternoon as the judge shuffled through a stack of verdict forms containing the fate of James E. Holmes, the gunman who slipped into a Colorado movie theater in 2012 and opened fire on their sons and daughters, friends and loved ones.

As the judge began reading the verdicts — guilty, guilty, guilty — repeated 165 times over an entire hour, for each count of murder and attempted murder, the families sobbed quietly, clutched one another’s shoulders and nodded along to a recitation of guilt that many had been waiting nearly three years to hear.

Sandy Phillips wrapped herself tightly in the green scarf that her slain daughter, Jessica Ghawi, had loved. A father whose son was killed patted the arm of Joshua Nowlan, who was wounded and now walks with a cane.As each name of the 12 people killed and 70 wounded was read, and read again — prosecutors filed two charges per victim — the families looked to the corner of the public gallery and gave one another a quiet nod or an arm squeeze.

After an emotional 10-week trial, one of the longest and most complex in this state’s history, it took a jury of nine women and three men about 12 hours of deliberation over two days to convict Mr. Holmes on all counts. He now faces a lengthy sentencing process in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The jury’s verdict roundly rejected arguments from his defense lawyers that he had had a psychotic break and was legally insane when he carried out the massacre inside the Century 16 theater in suburban Aurora, Colo., on July 20, 2012. His lawyers argued he was not in control of his thoughts or actions, but prosecutors said Mr. Holmes, despite being mentally ill, had plotted the shootings with calculation and knew what he wanted to accomplish when he started firing into the crowd.

As Judge Carlos Samour Jr. read the 165 counts against Mr. Holmes, the defendant stood silently between his lawyers, staring straight ahead, with his hands tucked into the pockets of a pair of khaki-colored pants. He did not glance at his parents sitting two rows behind. When the hourlong recitation of the verdicts was done, he sat down and lightly swiveled in his chair.

Coming within days of the Aurora shooting’s third anniversary, the guilty verdict ends one phase of a grueling legal saga, but another one is set to begin.

As the district attorney in suburban Arapahoe County argues for the death penalty, the jury will begin weighing the toll and nature of Mr. Holmes’s actions to decide whether to send him to prison for life or to Colorado’s death row.

The sentencing phase is expected to take weeks. It could feature more wrenching statements from survivors and families of the victims, as well as testimony from defense witnesses discussing the role that mental illness played in propelling Mr. Holmes toward the movie theater that night.

“Look for the defense to emphasize the fact that James Holmes truly suffers from a serious mental illness, that he is in dire need of ongoing treatment and that while incarcerated he does not pose any real threat or danger to society,” said Steven Pitt, a forensic psychiatrist in Arizona who has followed the case closely. “Look for the prosecution to try and minimize the extent of Holmes’s mental illness and instead depict him as someone who is depraved and rotten to the core.”

The district attorney, George Brauchler, has said that for Mr. Holmes, “justice is death.”

Prosecutors argued that Mr. Holmes plotted the shootings for several weeks, deliberately and meticulously, because he had lost his first and only girlfriend, had dropped out of his graduate program and had generally lost his purpose in life.

To that end, prosecutors brought in professors and classmates who described Mr. Holmes’s struggles as a first-year graduate student in the neuroscience program at the Anschutz Medical Campus of the University of Colorado. Mr. Holmes quit the program in June 2012, after he failed important oral exams, and declined the chance to retake them.

Prosecutors showcased pages from a spiral notebook in which Mr. Holmes inscribed murderous fantasies and nonsensical theories about life and death, and where he plotted what kind of attack to carry out, and how and where to do it.

But where prosecutors saw calculation, the defense saw “a whole lot of crazy.”

Two psychiatrists who testified for the defense said Mr. Holmes lacked the ability to tell right from wrong or act with intent — critical elements of sanity under Colorado law.

Their testimony clashed with two court-appointed psychiatrists who said that although Mr. Holmes suffered a severe mental illness on a spectrum with schizophrenia, he was not legally insane when he walked into the theater.

Some families responded with visible relief, and public officials in Colorado — many of whom attended memorial services and have met with victims’ families — said they hoped that the verdict would bring a small measure of solace. Others were warier of a sentencing process that could lead to years of appeals if Mr. Holmes is sentenced to death.

“This has been an emotional and difficult time for the victims, their families, loved ones and friends,” Gov. John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado said in a statement. “My hope is that this step brings some peace to each of them and begins the healing process for all of Colorado.”

After the verdict was delivered, Jansen Young stood outside the courthouse in an afternoon rain and said she felt a weight lifted. When the shooting started that night, her boyfriend, Jonathan Blunk, pushed her under the seats and boxed her in, she said. He was killed, and on Thursday, his name was the first one read in the litany of murder victims.

Ms. Young said she had looked at Mr. Holmes in court and could not fathom his demeanor.

“It’s amazing to me that there is no response,” she said.

Jessica Watts, a cousin of Mr. Blunk, said the pain she experienced during the trial had gotten so bad that a month ago she stopped attending. She spent the summer going to the pool and zoo with her children — following the advice that another victim’s family member had given her, to focus on the living — but on Thursday, her phone started ringing.

She said she began shaking as the verdict was read, and tried to calm herself by thinking about the people for whom she had come to court that day. “It’s all these families that have been touched by this massive tragedy,” Ms. Watts said. “Win, lose, whatever, there’s 12 people that are never coming back.”

Read: aurora-doc-jury-instructions-james-holmes

Lawyers for Colorado movie gunman James Holmes wrap up case


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Defense lawyers trying to avoid the death penalty for Colorado movie massacre gunman James Holmes wrapped up their case on Friday, hoping they have convinced jurors he was legally insane when he carried out one of the worst U.S. mass shootings.
They concede that he killed 12 people and wounded 70 when he opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle, shotgun and pistol inside a movie theater in 2012, and that had rigged his apartment with bombs before he left. But they say he suffers schizophrenia and was not in control of his actions.
Prosecutors accuse Holmes of being a cold-blooded murderer who aimed to kill all 400 people in the packed midnight premiere of a Batman film at the Century 16 cinema in Aurora, a Denver suburb. He failed in part because the drum magazine he bought for his rifle jammed.
After playing jurors a video of the defendant naked and running head-long into a cell wall, and another of him thrashing around in restraints at a hospital, the defense rested.
The prosecution said it would not present any rebuttal case. Attorneys from both sides will make closing arguments on Tuesday.
The defense team had earlier called a succession of psychiatrists and psychologists who studied Holmes, as well as jail staff who met him after he was arrested at the scene dressed head-to-toe in body armor, a gas mask and a helmet.
Their star expert witness, Raquel Gur, director of the Schizophrenia Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania, spent a grueling 4 days on the stand defending her diagnosis that Holmes was legally insane.
“He was not capable of differentiating between right and wrong,” Gur said on Thursday. The noted psychiatrist and author once examined Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Arizona mass shooter Jared Loughner.
“He was not capable of understanding that the people that he was going to kill wanted to live.”
2 court-appointed psychiatrists reached a different conclusion: while Holmes is severely mentally ill, they have told jurors, he was legally sane when he planned and carried out the massacre.
Holmes did not testify in his own defense.
Throughout the trial he has displayed almost no reaction to the parade of more than 200 victims, law enforcement officials, medical workers and other witnesses who took the stand, just a few feet in front of where he sat tethered to the floor beneath the desk used by his attorneys.
Sometimes he turned his head to watch videos of himself played on a court television. Responding with 1-word answers, he told Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour on Thursday that he understood his decision not to testify.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and if the jury agrees he would avoid the death penalty. Under Colorado law, the prosecution must prove he was sane for him to be found guilty of multiple counts of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder. District Attorney George Brauchler attacked Gur’s testimony during lengthy cross-examination.
Suggesting she neglected important indicators of Holmes’ state of mind, he said she failed to take detailed notes, and wrote a much shorter report than the court-appointed psychiatrists.
“Why not just send in a postcard?” Brauchler asked.
Jurors have posed questions to many witnesses, and Gur faced more than 50 written queries from the jury that were read to her by the judge.
They included whether she considered other diagnoses such as autism. She replied that she did. “The presentation was most consistent with … schizophrenia,” Gur said.

 

The Green River Killer Moved To Colorado, But Why?


The Green River Killer was locked away in a Washington state prison for more than a decade, but that has changed. Serial killer Gary Ridgeway has reportedly been relocated to a maximum security facility in Colorado — approximately 1,300 miles away from where he was originally imprisoned. So why did authorities relocate this notorious murderer?

 

The Seattle Times reports that Ridgeway is now housed in a federal penitentiary which is located in Florence, Colorado. However, authorities refused to comment on why the killer was relocated to the maximum security prison, when he’s been stationary up in Washington state for so long. Spokesman Andrew Garber with the Department of Corrections gave a short and to-the-point response to media questions.

“The department constantly evaluates and reviews the overall safety and security of our operations, and makes decisions regarding the housing of offenders accordingly. The department does not comment about individual offenders and their circumstances.”

So for now it will remain unknown as to why the Green River Killer landed himself some new digs in a state more than 1,000 miles away from his home.

Gary Ridgeway became known worldwide as the Green River Killer when he confessed to the murders of at least 49 women across the country. His murderous appetite put him in the ranks of America’s most prolific serial killers, such as Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy. All of his victims were prostitutes and women who lived their lives on the outer boundaries of society, but Ridgeway didn’t count on his victims also having loved ones who aggressively pushed for justice.

The Green River Killer not only admitted to killing numerous women to avoid the death penalty, but he’s reportedly tried to devote his time post-conviction to helping locate the bodies of all the missing people he allegedly killed. KOMO News reports that Ridgeway has claimed to have racked up at least 80 bodies, and he wants to prove that to authorities, and the world. He’s also expressed that this is his way of making right by his past, which he cannot change.

What do you think about the news of Ridgeway’s relocation to Colorado? Do you think it has anything to do with him assisting in the search for more of his victims? As The Green River Killer, Gary Ridgeway was active for many years as he picked off victims along the Green River. However, he also dumped bodies over state lines in order to throw off police who were investigating the murders. Does that mean he could have picked up victims in Colorado as well?

Murder trial of Edward Montour rekindles death penalty debate


march 5, 2014

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — It was a murder trial putting the death penalty on trial.

Opening arguments began in the death penalty murder trial of Edward Montour, accused of killing a Limon prison guard in 2002.

Montour pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

If a jury finds him guilty, the defense said executing Montour will cost taxpayers more than a million dollars.

Supporters sais it’s a cost worth bearing because sometimes only death is the appropriate punishment.

Prosecutors said they want Montour, who is already serving a life sentence for the death of his infant daughter in 1997, to die for beating Limon 23-year-old prison guard Eric Autobee to death with a kitchen ladle in 2002.

“Your government is trying to kill one of its citizens. There is no bigger step that any government could possibly take,” said Montour’s defense attorney, David Lane.

Lane was fighting to save Montour’s life — as was the victim’s own father.

“A lot of people think because I forgave him I don’t want him punished,” said Bob Autobee, Eric’s father. “That is completely wrong. People who do these things have to be punished, but death is not the answer.”

What is the answer was hotly debated in court.

Montour would join three others on Colorado’s death row, including Robert Ray, Sir Mario Owens and  Chuck E Cheese killer, Nathan Dunlap, who Gov. Hickenlooper last May gave an indefinite reprieve.

“Our system of capital punishment is imperfect,” said Gov. Hickenlooper during a press conference following his decision to spare Dunlap’s life. “And, there’s an inherent inequity that, at such a level of punishment, it really does demand perfection.”

Republican gubernatorial candidates tackled the issue during a FOX31 debate Sunday.

“Nathan Dunlap is a heinous mass murderer,” said Colorado Senator Greg Brophy. “He killed four people in cold blood. If I had been governor I would have had an execution about six months ago.”

“The people of the state of Colorado support the death penalty, and we support our juries and judges to make the right decisions,”  added Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

But Montour’s lawyer said the direction of the death penalty nationally is very clear.

“There are now 25 states — that’s about half the country — that have abolished the death penalty or put a moratorium on it primarily because it costs so much money. It is far cheaper to lock up someone for life in solitary confinement,” argued Lane.

Years of legal appeals have made the death penalty so costly.

Many studies found housing someone in prison for the rest of their life is actually cheaper than the state spending money on lawyers defending the death penalty.

Montour’s trial is expected to last two months.

Other death penalty cases include: James Holmes, the suspect in the Aurora theater shootings and Dexter Lewis, accused of stabbing five people to death at a bar.

(kdvr.com)

RELATED STORY: Man facing death penalty may have been wrongfully convicted in 1st case

COLORADO -Judge to rule if death penalty case against Montour will be postponed


february 27, 2014 (Denverpost)

Less than a week before opening arguments are scheduled to begin in the death penalty case against an inmate who beat a corrections officer to death, prosecutors are asking the judge to eliminate several defense witnesses or postpone the trial.

More than 11 years after Edward Montour killed 23-year-old Eric Autobee, jury selection in his second trial began on Jan. 6. During jury selection, defense attorneys filed a motion asking the judge to hear new evidence they say proves Montour was wrongfully convicted in 1998 of killing his 11-week-old daughter, Taylor.

On Thursday, Douglas County District Court Judge Richard Caschette will hear arguments about Montour’s 1998 conviction, whether more than a dozen defense witnesses will be allowed to speak at trial and if the trial will be postponed.

Opening arguments are scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

Montour was serving a life sentence for her death when he beat Autobee to death in the kitchen of the Limon Correctional Facility in 2002. He plead not guilty by reason of insanity in August.

But defense attorneys filed a motion on Feb. 2, arguing that Taylor’s death was an accident, not a homicide. Montour repeatedly told authorities in 1997 that he dropped Taylor — who defense attorneys now say had an undiagnosed bone disease — as he stood up from a rocking chair.

On Tuesday, almost 17 years after Taylor’s death, the El Paso County Coroner amended the manner of death on Taylor’s death certificate from homicide to unknown. Based on the amended death certificate, defense attorneys have asked the judge to drop the death penalty against Montour.

Prosecutors filed a motion on Wednesday, asking the court to eliminate some of the defense witnesses connected to arguments about Montour’s 1998 conviction because of untimely notice, incomplete endorsements and a delay in providing the prosecution with reports. If the judge allows the witnesses to speak at trial, prosecutors are asking him to postpone the trial “for the months needed” to evaluate and respond to the experts they say the defense has been “secretly cultivating for many months.”

According to the prosecution’s motion, defense attorneys have repeatedly violated court orders without punishment by filing motions and introducing witnesses well beyond deadlines set by the judge. Repeated violations created “an intended and significant tactical disadvantage,” prosecutors argued.

Defense attorneys filed a response to the motion Thursday morning, objecting to both of the prosecution’s requests.

According to defense attorneys, prosecutors have been on notice since late 2012 that defense attorneys were investigating and would likely challenge Montour’s prior conviction.

Postponing the trial would make the jury biased and prevent Montour from receiving a fair trial, defense attorneys argue. The jury selection process would likely have to be redone.

A total of 3,500 jury summons were sent out before jury selection started in January.

Eric Autobee’s father, Bob, will be at the hearing on Thursday. Bob Autobee, who originally supported seeking the death penalty against Montour, has forgiven his son’s killer in recent years.

In past months he has become a public opponent of the death penalty.

On Wednesday, Caschette ruled that the Autobee family may not ask a jury to spare Montour the death penalty if he his convicted. He may, however, tell the jury about Montour’s character.

Judge orders new sanity evaluation for accused Colorado movie theater shooter


february 20, 2014

(CNN) — A judge has ordered that accused Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes undergo an additional sanity examination, saying there was good cause to believe previous testing was “incomplete and inadequate,” according to a ruling issued Wednesday.

Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour Jr. ordered Holmes to undergo an independent exam by the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo by early March, and the report must be filed by July 14.

Samour further ruled the new examiner may not take into account any mitigating factors that are identified in the state’s death penalty statutes.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Holmes, who is accused of opening fire in a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, during a July 2012 midnight showing of the latest Batman installment, “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Authorities have said Holmes was dressed head to toe in protective gear.

Holmes allegedly threw tear-gas canisters in the theater and then opened fire on the patrons, according to witnesses. Police say he used several weapons, including an AR-15 rifle, before fleeing the theater.

Outside the theater, the shooter was apprehended, identifying himself to police as “The Joker,” one of Batman’s archenemies.

Holmes faces 166 charges in the rampage that left 12 people dead and dozens more wounded.

Holmes was a neuroscience doctoral student at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus until the month before the attack; prosecutors have argued that he began plotting his attack while still enrolled.

The defense, meanwhile, appears to be focused not so much on what Holmes allegedly did that night but his mental state then and earlier.

A psychiatrist who treated him had warned campus police at the University of Colorado how dangerous he was, prompting them to deactivate his college ID to prevent him from passing through any locked doors, according to court documents.

(Source: CNN)