Teen guilty of attempted murder
Visibly shaken and breathing hard, 17-year-old Cinthia Romero listened silently Thursday afternoon as a jury pronounced her guilty of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon in the beating of a teen near Independence Pass.
The verdict was announced shortly after 1 p.m., following five and a half days of testimony and nearly 10 hours of deliberation.
Romero is scheduled for sentencing by Judge James Boyd at 1:45 p.m. Dec. 19, although defense attorney Arnie Mordkin said he might file a motion for a new trial. Such a motion could delay sentencing.
Mordkin said after the courtroom had cleared that there were irregularities in the way the jury filled out the verdict forms that might form the basis for a motion for a new trial, and that there were “a number of issues” that he did not discuss, but which might form the basis for some kind of appeal.
Because the jury did not add on what is known as a “sentence enhancer” ” a special finding that she committed a “crime of violence” ” Romero’s potential maximum prison sentence dropped to 32 years, instead of the 48 years she might have faced.
Mordkin, who accurately predicted the verdict outside the Pitkin County Courthouse only a short time earlier, leaned over to talk with his client as the jury filed into the room, preparing her for what was coming.
Members of Romero’s family, who had sat through the trial in the courtroom gallery, had left Aspen on Thursday morning, according to authorities, and were not there to hear the verdict being announced by Judge James Boyd.
None of the 12 jurors who served on the case was willing to discuss the trial or its outcome after the judge dismissed them.
But two women who sat through the five and a half days of testimony and then were picked as alternate jurors and dismissed from the courtroom before jury deliberations began said they agreed with the verdict.
While they said they had some trouble believing the stories some of the witnesses told, they said Romero’s own version simply did not make sense.
On Oct. 9, 2004, Romero and her former boyfriend, Jaime Castro, drove a 16-year-old runaway up Highway 82 toward Independence Pass and around 8 p.m. tried to beat her to death with a golf club.
The alternate jurors specifically mentioned Romero’s claim that she was at home asleep at the time of the beating and that Castro was away from the house on an unexplained errand with the family car from around 6 to 9 p.m. on the night of the assault.
That claim was not supported by the testimony of either Castro, who admitted last summer to taking part in the beating and testified that Romero was there, or the victim, who said it was both Castro and Romero who clubbed her to the ground that night.
“She was the only one that said she was sleeping,” alternate juror Angie Eaton said of Romero’s version. “Where did that come from?”
Alternate juror Karrie Brown, who expressed disappointment at being barred from the deliberations, said it was the testimony of Snowmass Village police Officer Dave Hively that swayed her.
Hively testified that about 8:20 p.m. on the day of the beating he stopped a vehicle on Highway 82 that matched the description police aired after initial interviews with the victim and the witnesses who saved her when they arrived on the scene.
But the vehicle description referred to two men as the suspects, and Hively said the two he contacted were a Latino man and Latina woman, so he spoke with them for a while, checked on the driver’s license and registration, and released them to continue their trip downvalley. The car, Hively reported, was a white GMC Jimmy owned by Santos Castro, Jaime’s mother, which Jaime drove frequently.
But Romero testified that Jaime Castro was out of the house from 6 p.m. until around 9 that night, roughly the same time when Hively said the Castro vehicle was headed downvalley.
“It just didn’t add up,” Brown said. “There were just a lot of holes for me. And all the other witnesses seemed to have the same story” that incriminated Romero.
Both women said they had trouble figuring out whose stories to believe, and both felt that some witnesses “flat-out lied” on the stand.
But Brown said she felt the victim, whose name is being withheld because she is a minor, was telling the truth when she identified Castro and Romero as her attackers after two days of misleading police out of loyalty to her former friends.
“I really think she didn’t want to snitch,” Brown said of the victim, who initially told police two men, one white and one Latino, had attacked her.
Eaton added that the lives of Latinos growing up in urban foster homes and tough neighborhoods is far different from what an Aspenite might experience.
“Their life is survival,” she said, “and people in that situation will say and do things … .”
“I really think she didn’t want to snitch,” Eaton said.
Both women said they tried to keep an open mind about the trial and that it was only at the end, when Romero testified, that they began to feel she was guilty.
Prosecutor Andrew Heyl said he was “of course, satisfied with the verdict,” adding that he has “a lot of faith in the jury system” and that he was not surprised at the verdicts.
John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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