Frustration boils over in El Jebel homicide case
A prosecutor in the Eagle County District Attorney’s Office temporarily walked off an El Jebel homicide case in court yesterday to protest a judge’s handling of the proceedings.Deputy District Attorney Arly Miner took the unusual step after complaining several times to Eagle County District Judge Richard Hart that he was being too lenient with Russell Thompson. Thompson is facing a manslaughter charge for allegedly beating a co-worker and drinking buddy, Timothy “Chico” Destromp, to death in his friend’s El Jebel apartment in February 2001.Thompson is representing himself in court hearings although he claimed he will hire an attorney this month. While Thompson argued motions on his own behalf yesterday Miner claimed Hart wasn’t making Thompson stick to standard points of law. She said Thompson wasn’t following procedure like an attorney would be required.”For the record, I am not going to participate in this hearing. I object,” said Miner, who was animated and spoke in a raised voice several times in the 3 1/2-hour hearing.”OK, then I’ll deny your motion,” responded Hart, who was considering Miner’s motion to limit the testimony Thompson could present at a trial.Miner countered that she would appeal his decision.The judge then suggested a new way to get the proceeding on track and asked Miner and Thompson if they agreed with his suggestion. Miner shook her head negatively.”Your honor, this is a farce,” Miner said. “I apologize for saying this. It’s a farce and it’s ridiculous.”Hart backed down on his decision to deny her motion. He said he would “vacate” his decision while he considered other motions.Miner decided to participate but sparring between her and Thompson intensified, and Miner consistently complained about the judge’s handling of the case.”I cannot practice law like this,” Miner complained at one point. At another time she told the judge, “We need some order in the courtroom.”Miner pressed the point that Hart was allegedly giving Thompson more leeway because he is representing himself. She claimed that hurt her ability to prosecute the case. She suggested that in his desire to give Thompson a fair trial, the judge was making it unfair for the district attorney’s office.Hart was visibly frustrated by Miner’s allegations. He appeared to roll his eyes a few times when she launched diatribes and at one point he made a sarcastic remark about his ability to understand Miner’s issue.Thompson wasn’t quite as patient with the prosecutor. He complained about Miner “throwing fits” and continually interrupting him in an attempt to block “facts” so she could present a better case against him.”Let’s argue the facts and stop playing here,” Thompson said.Thompson lost a partial ruling on evidence he can present, but the judge gave him additional time to present his arguments in writing on why other evidence should be admitted to the trial.Thompson said he would be represented by Breckenridge attorney Jeffrey Ryan at his next hearing. Thompson said he is trying to raise the money for a retainer.”We have moved mountains so we can retain counsel,” Thompson said.Thompson represented himself in his first trial on a charge of second-degree murder. A jury found him guilty of a lesser charge of manslaughter. Hart threw out the conviction on Thompson’s appeal that the prosecutor handling the case at the time didn’t disclose all the evidence that would be used at trial. Thompson said that hindered his defense.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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