Thompson trial postponedwhile he seeks new lawyer
Russell Thompson’s manslaughter trial for the beating death of a man in El Jebel three and a half years ago has been delayed to give him a chance to find legal representation.Thompson’s trial for the death of Timothy “Chico” Destromp was scheduled to start Sept. 23 in Eagle County District Court. He has been representing himself in pretrial hearings because the public defender’s office said he didn’t qualify for free representation at state taxpayers’ expense.Thompson had been living with his sister, Dianna “Deedee” Young, in Colorado Springs. Representatives of the public defender’s office said her financial assets made Thompson ineligible for free legal aid.However, Thompson was arrested in Colorado Springs last month for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend and has since been held in jail. He claimed Friday at a pretrial hearing in the manslaughter case that he should be considered indigent and his sister’s assets shouldn’t have a bearing on whether he qualifies for free legal representation. Eagle County District Judge Richard Hart agreed to delay the Sept. 23 trial to give Thompson time to seek representation.But everything in this case has been convoluted and Thompson’s quest for a lawyer is no exception. He parted ways with public defender Dana Christensen in less than friendly terms earlier this year. At that time, Thompson told family members in an open courtroom that he felt the public defender wasn’t working hard enough to represent him. Thompson maintains he didn’t beat Destromp to death.Christensen cannot talk about the case because of a gag order, but it was clear from expressions and body language during court hearings that relations between the attorney and client were strained.Thompson claimed in court Friday that the public defender’s office didn’t want to represent him because, “I embarrassed them.”Thompson told Hart that he believed the public defender’s office will refuse to represent him, even if he qualifies financially, because of an alleged conflict. He indicated his sour relations with the attorneys of the office created that conflict.If that is the case, Thompson noted, a different court-appointed attorney should be assigned to the case at state expense under Colorado’s alternative counsel rules. Hart said it was too early to determine if Thompson is entitled to alternative counsel.Thompson became impatient with Hart and seemed to make risky comments to the judge. Thompson said “we” must be “more intelligent” about this case if it is ever to be resolved.”I kind of feel like you have blinders on sometimes,” Thompson said to the judge. Thompson quickly apologized, saying he didn’t want to risk “upsetting” Hart.Hart replied, “You won’t upset me. Personally it’s not anything off my back.”The judge directed Thompson to fill out paperwork to see if he is eligible to be represented by the public defender. His eligibility will be determined at a hearing later this month.Also at that hearing, Thompson said he will argue that his bail should be reduced. He is being held in Eagle County Jail on $200,000 bond for allegedly violating conditions of his earlier release by getting into legal trouble in Colorado Springs.Deputy District Attorney Arly Miner said she will argue for a higher bond. She said she will show a one-hour video that will allegedly have a bearing on the hearing but she didn’t disclose what that video will show.Thompson is awaiting a second trial on the charge that he beat Destromp to death. A jury acquitted him of second-degree murder but convicted him of the lesser charge of manslaughter in September 2002. Hart vacated that conviction and ordered a new trial because he found that the prosecutor at the time didn’t disclose all evidence she would use during the trial.Thompson represented himself in that trial after firing a different public defender.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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