Judge rules on motions ahead of Glenwood Springs murder trial
In less than a month, jurors will begin hearing evidence against Gustavo Olivo-Tellez, who is charged with first-degree murder for the October 2016 death of his estranged wife and mother to his son, Blanca Salas, near Glenwood Springs.
In an order issued Jan. 3, 9th District Court Judge John Neiley denied a number of motions from Olivo-Tellez’s defense attorney, and provided guidelines for the prosecution’s use of evidence in the trial.
The prosecution team agreed with the defense’s arguments on some points. For instance, prosecutors conceded that in the matter at hand, any evidence suggesting Olivo-Tellez had an intimate relationship with anyone other than Salas or Castillo would be overly prejudicial, and not relevant to the case.
District Attorney Jeff Cheney maintains that Olivo-Tellez and his then-girlfriend Michelle Castillo — who pleaded guilty to accessory murder in the case and was sentenced to 16 years in prison December 2017 — cooperated in the killing of Salas.
Castillo will be transported to the Garfield County Jail and called as a witness for the trial against Olivo-Tellez.
The prosecutors agreed not to present any evidence that Olivo-Tellez was involved with any alleged killings in Mexico. Prosecutors have said that the 3-year-old son of Olivo-Tellez and Salas was in the Spring Valley apartment building at the time of the shooting but said they will not present evidence that he witnessed the alleged murder of his mother.
2nd Amendment argument raised
Defense attorney Garth McCarty asked the judge to prohibit prosecutors from using the fact that Olivo-Tellez purchased a gun as evidence that he intended to murder Salas. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, McCarty argued, grants the right to possess loaded firearms, and the fact that Olivo-Tellez acquired a gun prior to Salas’s shooting should not be used as evidence of intent.
Cheney said during a Dec. 21 motions hearing that there’s a difference between arguing intent based on gun ownership and arguing someone intended harm because they “carried a loaded gun to the scene of a shooting.”
Judge Neiley denied the motion outright. The Second Amendment “protects only the lawful use and possession of firearms,” Neiley said in his order on the motion.
Prosecutors are allowed to present evidence of how and when the firearm and ammunition was acquired and used “as circumstantial evidence of the defendant’s guilt, including proving the defendant’s intent,” Neiley ruled.
mental health exam off the table
Just prior to the start of the originally scheduled trial in April 2018, Olivo-Tellez entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Olivo-Tellez formally withdrew that plea, and McCarty argued that the mental health examination which determined the defendant was mentally fit to stand trial could be overly prejudicial.
The court determined that the transcript of the assessment would not be relevant or admissible, unless the defense raises an issue about Olivo-Tellez’s culpable mental state at the time of the alleged crime during the trial.
Judge Neiley denied the defense attorney’s request to issue a court order compelling Facebook Inc. to provide data and communications between Olivo-Tellez, Castillo and Salas.
The defense argued the messages could be useful and supported its argument with an affidavit signed by a private investigator and consultant. Judge Neiley wrote that the court can only grant orders compelling documents to a “Colorado criminal investigator or peace officer,” and the private entity did not qualify as such.
Olivo-Tellez is being held in the Garfield County Jail on $2 million bond. His trial is set to begin Feb. 4, and the attorneys will have a readiness conference Jan. 22.