Another hearing in the case involving the homicide of Aspen native Nancy Pfister was held Wednesday, with local bank teller Katherine M. Carpenter handcuffed and shackled in her second court appearance alongside attorney Greg Greer.
No information regarding Pfister’s manner of death or evidence compiled by investigators was revealed at the hearing, which consisted of Greer, whose office is in Glenwood Springs, discussing motions on behalf of Carpenter that mirrored many of those previously filed by attorneys for husband and wife William and Nancy Styler. Like the Stylers, Carpenter has been charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in connection with Pfister’s death.
Carpenter, 56, wore red jail attire during the proceeding, a departure from the orange jumpsuits typically worn by other court defendants who are in the custody of the Pitkin County Jail. She was quiet throughout the hearing as Greer and Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols went through a range of technical motions. The exact details of those motions and the judge’s written rulings on each of them — as with the search and arrest warrants that shed light on the District Attorney’s Office’s case against her and the Stylers — are sealed in the individual case files and not available to the media or the public.
But some specifics about the motions have emerged during court discussions. Greer, Carpenter’s court-appointed counsel, spent the bulk of the proceeding, as did attorneys for the Stylers on March 18, attempting to convince the judge that prosecutors should not have access to jail visitation logs. He argued that records of who visits Carpenter might include potential defense witnesses and experts and that the district attorney’s access to such records could compromise attorney-client privilege.
“If (Carpenter) were not in custody, who visits her would not be subject to review by law enforcement,” Greer said.
As she ruled in the same motion involving the Stylers, Nichols said all jail records may be open to prosecutorial inspection, with the exception of those pertaining to medical and psychological care. Specific communications between individuals involved in the defense and a client cannot be reviewed by prosecutors because they fall under the category of “work product,” which is protected by attorney-client privilege.
Greer tried to press his point.
“It’s not something that would happen if she were not in custody,” he said of the visitation records.
He asked Nichols if Carpenter could have visitors who don’t have to present identification, but the judge denied his request.
“The jail staff makes its security determinations,” she said. “The jailer makes the decision.”
Nichols also told Greer that a visitation log does not count as a communication involving work product.
“There is no evidence that disclosure (of visits) to the prosecution would be contrary to the public interest,” Nichols said.
Greer also was rejected in his request that Carpenter’s telephone, mail and library records at the jail be protected from the prosecution.
The defense attorney also asked if Carpenter’s handcuffs and shackles could be removed during court appearances. Nichols said such security measures are determined by the Sheriff’s Office and that she would not intervene in the issue. Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said Wednesday afternoon that given the gravity of the charges, all of the defendants will be required to wear handcuffs at future court appearances but not during a trial, should one be held.
Nichols pointed out to Greer that he, like the attorneys for the Stylers, had the right to file a motion asking for a bond hearing for his client. All three defendants are being held without bond: Technically, they are in the custody of the Pitkin County Jail, which is operated by the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, but they have been separated into facilities in three separate counties, including Pitkin.
Greer said he would discuss the bond matter with another attorney who will serve as co-counsel in representing Carpenter.
The defendants and their attorneys are due back in court on April 2, when Nichols plans to set a date for a preliminary hearing. Because of space limitations in the courtroom, Greer asked Nichols if he could reserve all four chairs at the defendants’ table. It was one of the lighter moments of Wednesday’s proceeding, eliciting chuckles from the audience.
Carpenter’s first court appearance was on March 17, when prosecutors formally filed charges against her and the Stylers. Authorities have said that on the evening of Feb. 26, the Alpine Bank employee discovered Pfister’s body inside a closet at Pfister’s West Buttermilk Road home and called 911. She was arrested at her employee-housing unit at the Christiana Lodge, located off Main Street in Aspen, on March 14.
William Styler III, 65, and Nancy Styler, 62, both were arrested by sheriff’s deputies on March 3 at the Aspenalt Lodge in Basalt.
Pfister, who was 57, had hired Carpenter to help rent her home whenever she went on extended vacations. Earlier this year, Pfister traveled to Australia but complained on her Facebook page that the Stylers had not been paying rent.
Local authorities have been extremely tight-lipped about the case, refusing to answer questions about each defendant’s alleged involvement.