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CBI called on to speed up case

Chad Abraham

Amid another wave of continuations of court cases, a judge yesterday ordered the district attorney’s office to send potentially crucial evidence in an attempted murder case to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to speed things up.At least 10 cases were continued Monday as defense attorneys repeatedly told Judge James Boyd that they needed more time to speak with prosecutors. The 9th Judicial District has seen numerous attorneys and administrative personnel resign in the past few months.Outgoing Deputy District Attorney Chris Gaddis said the number of continuations is normal.”Anytime a new deputy DA comes in you’re going to get that,” said Gaddis, who resigned last week. He handled yesterday’s caseload as new Deputy District Attorney Andrew Heyl sat by his side. “It’s a relatively small docket compared to other areas of the district. It’s nothing that cannot be caught up to.”Gaddis predicted that the three weeks between yesterday’s court date and the next district docket on May 26 would give the office the time it needs to prepare.But defense attorneys told a different story. Five of the upper valley’s top defenders huddled before court began Monday. Asked what they were discussing, one attorney said, “We’re worried.” The lawyer did not want to be named, nor did another defense attorney who said after the morning court session that the number of continuances was unusual.What is worrying to defense attorneys is the new philosophy brought in by District Attorney Colleen Truden. Since taking office in January, she has implemented stricter negotiating tactics in plea bargains, and as a result more cases are being prosecuted.Monday, Boyd weighed in on pre-trial negotiations between prosecutors and Arnold Mordkin and Greg Greer, the public defender. Mordkin, a Snowmass Village lawyer, is representing Cinthia Romero, while Greer is defending Jaime Castro. The teens are charged with attempted first-degree murder in the beating of a girl on Independence Pass in October 2004.Mordkin told the judge that the victim’s fingernail clippings are still in a locker in the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. He said police have alleged that the victim may have scratched one of her attackers and said there may be DNA evidence on the clippings.”We’re very distressed,” Mordkin said, adding that the clippings could constitute “very material evidence.”He reminded Boyd that Assistant District Attorney Vince Felletter has proclaimed that his office will not negotiate after the preliminary hearing stage. Mordkin also said a police report cited by prosecutors has not been turned over to the defendants.”We can’t progress until we know what we have,” he said.Greer said that he saw two constitutional rights pushing against each other: the right to go to trial versus the right of a defendant to have all pertinent discovery information.”With a deadline like this, if we are pressured into a preliminary hearing without all the information, it limits the effectiveness of council,” Greer said.Gaddis, noting that it would take months before the test results could be known, said, “We don’t have to do it.”Mordkin argued that the district attorney is required to process information in a reasonably timely manner.”Shall we keep them in jail for 20 years until CBI does the test?” he asked.Sheriff’s Investigator Bruce Benjamin said his office is “perfectly willing” to send the fingernail clippings to CBI.Boyd ordered prosecutors to send the nail clippings to the agency this week and ordered that the police report be found and turned over to the defense within 10 days.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com


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