DA will not seek death penalty in Stagner case | PostIndependent.com

DA will not seek death penalty in Stagner case

District Attorney Mac Myers said Thursday he will not seek the death penalty in the murder case against accused killer Steven Michael Stagner.

Stagner stands accused of killing four Mexican nationals and injuring three others in a shooting spree last July 3 in Rifle.

In a hearing in Garfield District Court, Myers said Stagner’s longstanding history of mental illness outweighed the serious circumstances of the quadruple homicide.

Stagner has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

In related action, Judge T. Peter Craven set Stagner’s murder trial to begin July 29.

The trial is scheduled for four weeks, lasting most of August.

The next hearing on the case is set for May 2, when the prosecution and defense will share their timelines for filing motions. The types of motions made at that hearing remain to be seen.

“There’ll be more to come, but Mike’s insane,” said public defender Greg Greer, Stagner’s attorney.

Stagner, 42, faces 19 charges, including eight counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.

He was arrested by Rifle police officers on July 3, just minutes after allegedly shooting six men and a woman. Four of the victims died, three were seriously injured.

Killed were Angelica Toscano, 19, Juan Manuel Hernandez-Carrillo, 44, and the brothers Melquiades Medrano-Velasquez, 23, and Juan Carlos Medrano-Velasquez, 22.

Medel Ortega, 24, and Efred Miramontes, 17, and Rudolfo Beltran, 29 were injured.

Since his arrest, Stagner has been held without bond in the Garfield County Jail. If convicted of the murder charges, he will receive life in prison.

But Stagner’s attorneys plan to introduce evidence of his mental state to bolster the insanity plea. Another incarceration option would be needed if a jury finds that plea to be true. He would have to be admitted into a mental facility.

“If found not guilty by reason of insanity, It’s different,” Greer said. “He’ll stay in custody. It really has to do with `Where are we going to send Mike Stagner?'”

If a jury acquits Stagner on the insanity plea, he’d be given a one-day to life sentence, Greer said.

“As a technical matter, they could come back and say, `You’re sane.’ As a practical matter on a homicide case, people stay there for a long, long time,” Greer said.

A sanity and competency evaluation, written March 25 by Dr. David S. Johnson of the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, also was released Thursday.

Johnson wrote that although Stagner “does indeed have a severe mental illness of psychotic proportions,” there still are “several factors going against a finding of insanity.”

Those factors include Johnson’s opinion that Stagner “did intend to shoot people on July 3, 2001.”

The report alludes to Stagner telling a Grand Junction police officer there was going to be a “turkey shoot” on the morning of July 3.

“After being interviewed concerning this evidence, Mr. Stagner himself admitted that `It’s obvious that I came to kill people,'” the report states.

The report concludes that the case for insanity rests on Stagner’s inability to clearly differentiate right from wrong.

“It is my opinion that on the night of July 3, 2001, Mr. Steven Michael Stagner was acting under strong delusional beliefs, which prevented him from being able to distinguish right from wrong with respect to his criminal acts,” the report said.

But Johnson said Stagner is competent to stand trial.

“It is my opinion that Steven Michael Stagner is not currently suffering from a mental disease or defect which renders him incapable of understanding the nature and course of the proceedings against him, or participating or assisting in his defense or cooperating with his defense counsel,” the report said.

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