GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Several pretrial motions in the case against accused murderer Fredy Cabrera were heard by 9th District Judge Denise Lynch during a lengthy court hearing Tuesday.
However, some of the more sensitive requests by Cabrera’s legal defense team for certain evidence and testimony to be limited when the trial begins in late September were heard in the judge’s chambers in an effort to control pretrial publicity.
“This is evidence that may or may not come out at trial,” Lynch told reporters who attended the motions hearing. “It would greatly prejudice this trial to have it come out in the paper.”
Cabrera, 40, is charged with first-degree murder for the July 31, 2013, shooting death of Douglas Menjivar outside an apartment just south of Glenwood Springs.
According to prosecutors, Cabrera was upset that Menjivar, 21, had been dating Cabrera’s stepdaughter Leydy Trejo, who was 18 at the time and still in high school. Menjivar was an employee at Cabrera’s El Horizonte restaurant in Carbondale and another family business.
Trejo had reportedly moved into the apartment with Menjivar against Cabrera’s wishes, according to testimony at a February preliminary hearing.
Shortly before midnight on the night of the shooting, Cabrera allegedly waited for the two to return to the apartment when the shooting occurred.
Menjivar died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds. Trejo was also shot in the leg during the incident and ended up in the hospital.
Cabrera has pleaded not guilty. His attorneys, Kathy Goudy and Colleen Scissors, have indicated to prosecutors that they plan to present evidence that he may have been acting in self defense. A trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 22.
Certain motions in the case were filed under court-ordered seal, Lynch said, prompting the closed-door nature of a portion of the Tuesday hearing.
Among the motions heard behind closed doors is one to suppress the testimony of two prosecution witnesses, Misael Rivas and Noe Menjivar Magana.
Both men indicated under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Scott Turner at the preliminary hearing that Cabrera had previously threatened Douglas Menjivar and Trejo, both verbally and physically, before the deadly shooting incident.
Lynch said she would take arguments related to that and other pending motions under advisement and would issue written rulings prior to the trial.
She did hear arguments on some of the pretrial motions in open court, including one filed by the defense to suppress police testimony related to questioning of Trejo in the emergency room and at the hospital after the shooting.
Goudy questioned the reliability of any statements made by Trejo that were not properly recorded, and because she was in pain and on medication at the time.
“This failure to preserve [recorded statements] has barred the ability of the defense to meaningfully challenge the officer’s version of responses” given by Trejo, the defense team argued in a June 19 filing.
Lynch ruled Tuesday that those concerns can be addressed by the defense through cross-examination at trial.
Another motion dealt with the reliability of Spanish translation and interpreters used by police during the initial investigation and questioning of Cabrera and witnesses in the case.
“Language is of crucial importance in the courtroom, and proper translation is everything,” Goudy argued. “I’m just trying to resolve an issue that could take days to resolve during the trial.”
Lynch did not rule on that motion, but will take it under advisement along with the other motions related to testimony at trial.
If convicted at trial, Cabrera faces mandatory life in prison without parole on the charge of premeditated first-degree murder. District Attorney Sherry Caloia has said she will not seek the death penalty in the case.