Judge denies defense request in Branson case

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The suspect in an attempted murder near Old Snowmass will be prosecuted by the local assistant district attorney, a judge ruled Monday.

Donald Branson, 54, is charged with attempted murder for allegedly slicing a man’s throat in April. His attorney, Denver-based Gary Lozow, asked the judge to remove Assistant District Attorney Lawson Wills from the case, a motion that was denied yesterday.

Lozow asked Judge James Boyd of the 9th Judicial District to appoint a special prosecutor for the case based on several conflicts: first, that Wills didn’t disclose that victim Martin Arroyo was not cooperating with the prosecution earlier in April; second, that Arroyo was prosecuted recently by the district attorney’s office in Garfield County and his credibility was brought into question; and third, that both Wills and the Garfield County prosecutor should be called as witnesses since they spoke privately with the victim.

Judge Boyd wrote in his decision that in all three cases, “the defendant was not shown a special circumstance that would make it unlikely he would receive a fair trail.” On the matter of the victim’s credibility being questioned in Garfield County, but being “vouched for” in Pitkin County, Boyd wrote:

“In smaller communities, people cross paths many times. This is an inevitable circumstance, not a special one which would likely deny the defendant a fair trial.”

He also wrote that the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that a district attorney being a potential witness was not enough to disqualify the prosecutor and his office.

Branson was taken into police custody on Friday for an alleged bond violation. His ex-wife reported seeing him outside her Aspen home that afternoon. Branson has been out of jail on $100,000 bond stemming from the attempted murder charge, and on Friday bonded out of jail for $30,000 for the new charge.

In Pitkin County District Court yesterday, both attorneys agreed to hold a preliminary hearing for both the attempted murder and bond violation charges on July 31 at 3 p.m.

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