Trial begins for suspect in brutal rape last summer
April 24, 2002
The trial of a man accused of brutally raping a woman in downtown Aspen last summer began Tuesday with jury selection and witness accounts of the night.
Marcos Garcia-Flores, who pleaded not guilty last November, sat in Pitkin County District Court in a black suit and tie, with his dark hair slicked back. A court-appointed interpreter translated the proceedings for him.
A jury of four women and nine men was selected by 3:30 p.m., and each attorney then gave opening statements.
Assistant District Attorney Lawson Wills told the jury although the case involves a sex assault, they should primarily try the case as first-degree assault.
“This case will give you the opportunity to define the term `extreme indifference to the value of human life,'” Wills said. “You can define what that term means to you.”
Wills told the jury what they will hear from witnesses in the trial: the story of a young woman who went out with her friends on a night in July and was attacked in the alley behind Little Annie’s Eating House after the bars closed.
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Wills said the victim will testify that her assailant threatened to kill her if she didn’t have sex with him, and that she was hit and thrown onto the pavement in the alley until she fell into a dazed stupor. The victim is expected to be the next witness called when the trial resumes this morning at 8:30.
Wills said evidence, including some taken from DNA, will prove that Garcia-Flores was that assailant.
Garcia-Flores was arrested 34 hours after the crime was committed, and Wills said the suspect told police “two versions” on “two different occasions” of what happened that night.
In response, public defender James Conway gave a short opening statement, reminding jurors they must decide the case based on witness testimony alone.
“What you just heard is the prosecutor’s view of July 18 … I’d like to remind you that what the DA said is not evidence. He is not a witness, he’s an advocate,” Conway said. “Mr. Garcia-Flores when faced with allegations chose to plead not guilty, and he has a presumption of innocence. I am confident that after the conclusion of the trial, you will find him not guilty.”
Miami resident Grace Delasala, 27, was the prosecution’s first witness. She testified that she was living in the valley last summer and walking to a friend’s house with her cousin when the victim ran toward them near the corner of Hunter Street and Hyman Avenue.
“She said, `I was just raped,'” Delasala said. “Her eye was swollen shut – it was horrible. Big, fat and swollen like in a Rocky movie when someone’s been punched really hard. She told us a man, a Hispanic guy who had a bike, had raped her and pounded her head against the cement. She said he told her if she didn’t have sex with him, he’d kill her.”
Delasala said the young woman also had a bloody nose and fresh scrapes on her arms. She said the woman was disheveled and was difficult to understand until Delasala attempted to calm her down.
“It’s very vivid in my mind, because it was traumatic for me,” Delasala said. “This is Aspen. Everyone thinks it’s so safe.”
During Conway’s follow-up questions, Delasala told the jury she and her cousin did not witness the attack and did not remember hearing screams prior to encountering the victim. Delasala said the victim said “her boyfriend and her mother would be mad at her” for the attack, but she said she did not know what the victim meant by the statement.
The prosecution’s second witness was Aspen Police Officer Roderick O’Connor, who told the jury he was the first officer on the scene after the victim, Delasala, Delasala’s cousin and a man with a cell phone called 911. He said he noticed the victim’s right eye was swollen shut and “getting worse by the minute,” and she seemed “scared and like she was not sure what happened.”
Wills entered photos of the victim taken in the days immediately following the alleged attack into the trial’s evidence record. And O’Connor confirmed that the photo of the victim with one eye swollen up and a dark shade of pink was representative of how the victim looked when he first spoke to her.
O’Connor said the victim was not showing signs of intoxication, but on Conway’s questioning the witness added that he was not particularly looking for those signs like he would in a traffic-stop situation.
O’Connor also said during an interview at the hospital that night, the victim told him her assailant threatened to kill her, “rammed her head against the ground,” and put his hands around her neck and tried to choke her while she tried to fight back.