Retrial rather than prison term for killer?
November 20, 2002
A man convicted by a jury of manslaughter in September is hoping to win a retrial today before a judge hands down a prison sentence.
Russell Thompson, acting as his own attorney, filed a motion for a new trial on grounds that information was allegedly withheld from him by the Eagle County District Attorney’s office. Thompson claims the DA’s lack of cooperation hindered his ability to adequately defend himself.
Judge Richard Hart of the Eagle County District held a hearing on Thompson’s motion Monday and is expected to rule today. If Hart decides a new trial isn’t warranted, he is scheduled to sentence Thompson.
Thompson was convicted Sept. 24 of the beating death of Timothy “Chico” Destromp. The two men were partying in Destromp’s El Jebel apartment when a fight broke out. Authorities said Thompson, 39, hit Destromp enough times that every bone in his face was broken and his airways collapsed, essentially drowning the man in his own blood.
Deputy DA Brenda Parks built her case around Thompson’s confessions. He initially said he was passed out when Destromp confronted him. A fight broke out, and Thompson said he went too far but never meant to kill his friend and fellow construction worker.
Thompson recanted and offered an alternative version of what happened at Destromp’s apartment on Feb. 10, 2001. He tried to show at the trial that other men had motives and opportunities to kill Destromp.
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Parks sought conviction on a charge of second-degree murder. The 12-member jury instead found Thompson guilty of the lesser offense of manslaughter.
Thompson is facing two to six years in prison for conviction of a class-four felony. The sentence could be up to 12 years under special circumstances, such as a prior criminal record, District Attorney Michael Goodbee explained earlier.
But Thompson contends he is entitled to a new trial because “illegal evidence” was allowed at the trial. Thompson alleged in his motion that Parks was aware that she had to turn over the final list of witnesses she would call at trial by June 24, 2002.
Thompson said he never received that list and that Parks was allowed to call two previously undeclared witnesses to testify as experts at the trial.
In his supporting information, Thompson said the DA’s office claimed as early as Feb. 15 that it had disclosed to him all the evidence it would use at the trial.
“This false information, again, hindered the Defendant’s ability to prepare for trial,” Thompson said in his motion. “This misconduct continued, with no regard toward the orders of this court or toward this defendant. This seriously prejudiced and limited this defendant in his investigation and the research of evidence in this case.”
Thompson attached transcripts that he claims support his contention that Judge Hart ruled no evidence could be presented at trial that wasn’t disclosed by the DA’s office in advance. Thompson contended that ruling was never upheld ? that Parks didn’t supply the full list of witnesses by the deadline, and that she wasn’t precluded from using two undisclosed witnesses at the time of trial.
Parks didn’t return telephone calls from The Aspen Times on Monday or Tuesday.
Thompson, who is representing himself in the case, claimed that without the testimony of the two witnesses called by the DA, conviction of manslaughter “perhaps would not have occurred.”
He concluded in his motion that the remedy to the alleged errors is “crystal clear” ? that being a new trial.
Judge Hart is scheduled to take up the matter at 2 p.m. today.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]