D.A. wants Thompson conviction upheld | AspenTimes.com

D.A. wants Thompson conviction upheld

The Eagle County district attorney will try to convince a judge next month to reinstate Russell Thompson’s manslaughter conviction for the beating death of an El Jebel man in 2001.

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said yesterday that his office believes there are grounds to ask Eagle County District Judge Richard Hart to reconsider his decision to overturn the Thompson conviction.

Hurlbert said a motion will be filed by Monday that lays out the district attorney’s reasoning. Hart will hold a hearing April 9 to determine if he should reconsider his decision.

Thompson was tried on a charge of second-degree murder for the death of Timothy “Chico” Destromp in February 2001. A jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of reckless manslaughter on Sept. 23. He was sentenced to nine years in state prison.

Thompson maintained during and after the trial that the prosecutor in the case, Brenda Parks, was unfairly allowed to call witnesses against him. He said she didn’t disclose far enough in advance of the trial that she was calling two of her witnesses. Thompson said that didn’t allow him enough time to prepare a proper defense regarding their information.

Hart agreed and overturned the conviction on Jan. 22.

Hurlbert inherited the case when he was appointed D.A. on Dec. 20. He took the post after Mike Goodbee resigned. Parks has also left the office, leaving Hurlbert and his staff to decide how to proceed.

He said Deputy District Attorney Phil Smith has taken over the Thompson case. If Hart doesn’t reinstate the conviction, Thompson will be retried for manslaughter.

Hurlbert said it was too soon to say if Thompson would be offered a plea bargain. If he is, he won’t accept it, according to Thompson’s sister, Deedee Young of Colorado Springs.

“Only guilty people accept plea bargains,” she said. “Innocent is innocent.”

Thompson cannot speak about the case because of a gag order.

If the case is retried, Thompson will have legal representation. In the last trial he represented himself and only had a legal adviser.

Thompson fired his public defender in the prior proceeding because he claimed she wasn’t adequately representing him. That public defender, Elizabeth Espinosa, has left the office.

Thompson was represented yesterday by Dana Christensen and Ken Barker of the public defender’s office. Barker said during a hearing that he needs 45 more days to prepare various pretrial motions. He didn’t disclose the nature of those motions.

One key battle could evolve over the admissibility of Thompson’s confessions. Parks repeatedly used pieces of three video- and audio-taped confessions during the trial.

Authorities claimed that Thompson and Destromp were drinking beer and vodka at Destromp’s apartment on Valley Road in the El Jebel area when a fight broke out between them. Thompson was accused of hitting Destromp so many times with his fist that every bone in Destromp’s face was broken. He died in a pool of blood on his kitchen floor.

Thompson first confessed to killing Destromp during a 911 call he made after running to a neighbor’s house. Later that night he confessed again in a videotaped interview he gave while still intoxicated, then in an interview after he sobered up.

Thompson later recanted the confessions. He said he was so drunk at Destromp’s house that he passed out and assumed when he came to that he was responsible for beating his friend. Thompson and Destromp worked on the same construction crew.

Thompson said that as he investigated his case further and looked at the evidence police collected and information they didn’t pursue, he concluded someone else entered Destromp’s apartment and beat him to death, while Thompson was passed out.

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