Prosecution rests in Vail murder case
GEORGETOWN, Colo. – Dr. Gary Kitching of Carbondale was shot three times – in his left arm, upper left thigh and chest – the night he died at the Sandbar in West Vail Nov. 7, 2009, three shots that all entered his body in a matter of a few seconds.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Mallory called Dr. Robert Kurtzman, a forensic pathologist, to the witness stand Monday, the fifth day of testimony for the prosecution since the Richard “Rossi” Moreau trial began at the Clear Creek County courthouse last Tuesday. He would be one of the last witnesses to testify before prosecuting attorneys rested their case Monday afternoon.
Kurtzman testified about the wounds Kitching sustained that night, accompanied by photographs of Kitching on the autopsy table, including close-up shots of the bullet holes left in his body.
Kitching’s widow, Lani Kitching, left the courtroom as the testimony began.
Through the autopsy and the surveillance video from the Sandbar that night, Kurtzman was able to determine that Kitching was first shot in the upper thigh, incapacitating him because the bullet fractured his hip. As Kitching collapsed downward, his torso pointed down to the floor and that’s when the second bullet entered him through his chest. As he lay on the ground on his back, with his left side facing Moreau, the third shot entered and exited his left arm and then re-entered his back.
Defense attorney Reed Owens focused on the part of the equation the autopsy does not show during cross-examination.
“Your examination doesn’t provide insight into what’s going on in the shooter’s head, correct,” Owens asked.
He then wanted to confirm that the shots were fired in a short sequence, three or so seconds, and Kurtzman agreed.
The cross-examination questions seemed to stem from a comment Hurlbert made earlier during Kurtzman’s testimony. Kurtzman had said it’s his job to determine a cause and manner of death, but the charges and guilt or innocence is something decided through the judicial process.
Hurlbert said that’s what the prosecution was indeed trying to prove in court – that Moreau is guilty of the act that resulted in homicide. The evidence prosecutors presented related solely back to whether Moreau was the shooter, who was shot, the extent of their injuries, and the events leading up to the shooting that they say prove Moreau thought about his crimes prior to committing them.
Hurlbert and Mallory did not call the state mental health expert who examined Moreau after a court order last year – the attorneys said at the time they would only use that mental health witness for rebuttal should the defense bring Moreau’s mental state into question.
Hurlbert and Mallory rested their case Monday afternoon – five days and more than two dozen witnesses after the trial began.
The prosecution called just about every witness imaginable to the stand – the bartenders at the Sandbar, the manager, bar patrons, the surviving shooting victims, responding police officers, the medical examiner, and Lani Kitching.
Their focus has been straightforward – the case, from the prosecution’s perspective, is about proving whether Moreau committed the crimes for which he is charged, including first-degree murder, two charges of attempted first-degree murder, two charges of first-degree assault, second-degree assault, and two charges of menacing with a deadly weapon.
Their questioning focused on the facts, many of which can be seen in the surveillance footage taken from the Sandbar that night.
Was Moreau the shooter? More than two dozen witnesses testified that he was, and the surveillance footage clearly shows that he was.
Did he shoot with intent, after deliberation? Hurlbert and Mallory asked witnesses questions that try to back up their argument that he did shoot with intent, after deliberation.
They asked witnesses to describe the shooting. Was it like he sprayed the room with bullets at random or did he take aim at his victims? Nearly every witness testified that Moreau took his time and aimed at his victims.
“It was very slow and deliberate – methodical,” testified Greg Conway, a bar patron and witness at the Sandbar that night.
Prosecutors wanted to know whether Moreau was coherent that night, both before, during and after the shootings. They talked about how many drinks he had – witnesses testified he had about three, but didn’t drink much or any of the third – and what he talked about. They asked witnesses to describe Moreau’s demeanor.
Witness Justin Center, who was shot in the back of the leg, described Moreau as “agitated, almost arrogant,” during a confrontation just prior to the shootings in which Moreau had come over to Center’s table and began to talk to the three men sitting there.
Sandbar manager Jason Barber, however, described Moreau as “normal” and said he was carrying on conversations when he first arrived at the bar that evening.
Their case, as described by Mallory during opening statements, is that Moreau was lucid, coherent and deliberate. They argued that as victim James Lindley, who suffered life-threatening injuries from his gunshot wounds and spent 12 days in a coma, lay on the ground pleading for his life, that Moreau put “more calculated shots into his body,” Mallory said.
Mallory said Moreau would then search through the bar for more victims, sparing the lives of people he knows, proving he knew what he was doing.
The defense presents its case beginning today. Defense attorneys Owens and Dana Christiansen are expected to present evidence of an unstable Vietnam veteran who they say suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. They will argue that the events in Moreau’s past combined with the events of Nov. 7, 2009, created what Owens called a “perfect storm.”
They will argue that Moreau shot four people that night, but that he did not form the culpable mental state to do so and therefore should be found not guilty.
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