Defense may try to suppress confessions | AspenTimes.com

Defense may try to suppress confessions

A key battle in the second trial of Russell Thompson for the beating death of a friend in February 2001 will likely be fought before the case even goes to a jury.

An attorney for Thompson indicated in court yesterday that he may try to suppress key evidence in the case. That could include confessions Thompson gave to police after the beating death of Timothy “Chico” Destromp in an El Jebel apartment in February 2001.

The district attorney’s office tried Thompson for second-degree murder but a jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter last September. Eagle County District Judge Richard Hart threw out the conviction in January and granted Thompson a new trial.

Thompson maintained that the prosecutor who handled the case at trial was allowed to call witnesses without disclosing far enough in advance that they would testify, in violation of court rules. The judge agreed.

The district attorney’s office is appealing the judge’s ruling.

In his first trial, Thompson represented himself after he fired public defender Elizabeth Espinosa for allegedly failing to adequately represent him. Thompson did have a legal adviser, but that attorney, Terry O’Connor, couldn’t represent him in court.

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Thompson didn’t attempt to suppress a telephone confession and two videotaped confessions that were given to police and used extensively in the trial by the prosecutor. However, he recanted the confessions and said he gave them while he was extremely intoxicated. A third confession, made while he was sober, came after he convinced himself that he must have beat his friend, he claimed.

Thompson cannot explain why he didn’t attempt to prevent the confessions from being used in the first trial because a gag order prohibits him from talking to the press.

Lawyers who followed the case were surprised that O’Connor didn’t have Thompson attempt to prevent the confessions from being used.

For the retrial, Thompson is using the public defender’s representation because Espinosa has left the office. Public defender Ken Barker said he will determine before a May 14 hearing whether to file a motion to suppress evidence. Prosecutor Phil Smith said he would vigorously oppose such a motion.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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