Mother accused of killing her children in Glenwood Springs pleads not guilty by insanity
A Glenwood Springs woman accused of killing her two children in December pleaded not guilty by insanity Thursday.
Claudia Camacho-Duenas, 37, was arrested Dec. 30 after allegedly stabbing her children, ages 11 and 18 years old, at the 100 block of Soccer Field Road in Glenwood Springs.
Responding officers attempted to resuscitate the victims on scene before they were taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead. Camacho-Duenas was arrested without incident, charged with felony first-degree murder of a family member and eventually placed on a $1 million bond.
Camacho-Duenas appeared before 9th Judicial District Court Judge Denise Lynch on Thursday. She is being represented by public defender Elise Myer. The primary prosecuting attorney in the case is Jeff Cheney.
Camacho-Duenas’ primary language is Spanish, and she was provided an interpreter.
Lynch agreed to Camacho-Duenas’ not guilty plea, ordering she be transferred from Garfield County Jail to the state hospital in Pueblo for psychiatric evaluations.
Myer argued, however, that Comacho-Duenas undergo a competency evaluation first prior to psychiatric examination in Pueblo and that it be done in a timely fashion.
“As we know, as a part of the insanity process, a competency evaluation is done first,” Myer said. “It’ll be done to determine whether or not Ms. Camacho-Duenas is currently competent to proceed and to undergo a sanity evaluation.”
Lynch agreed to a competency evaluation being done first but did not agree to give a specific timeline on it.
“I’m not inclined to order these be done within a certain period of time,” she said. “I don’t want to risk a dismissal because things were not done in accordance with my order.”
The not guilty by insanity plea means Camacho-Duenas admits to murdering her two children but that a trial jury can determine insanity or mental condition prohibited her from forming an appropriate intent leading to the crime.
“It will be presumed at the time of trial that you were sane at the time you committed these murders,” Lynch told Camacho-Duenas.
The plea also means Camacho-Duenas waives the right to medical confidentiality and that psychiatric reports and testimonies can be used in cross-examination.
“In other words, (Camacho-Duenas) can’t claim a physician-patient privilege with regard to this affirmative defense,” Lynch said.
Camacho-Duenas will be prohibited from calling any psychiatrists or other expert witnesses to testify on her mental condition if she refuses to cooperate, Lynch said.
Camacho-Duenas still has the right not to incriminate herself in response to any questions asked by psychiatric examiners. But Myer argued that if Camacho-Duenas opts not to answer a question posed by an evaluator because it could incriminate her, it could be interpreted as “non-cooperation.”
“Those things are contrary to each other,” she said.
Lynch said if this becomes an issue at trial, she can determine during a future hearing whether Camacho-Duenas is required to answer certain questions.
In addition to a court-ordered psychiatric examination, Camacho-Duenas can have an independent examination done through a specialist of her choosing, Lynch said.
Lynch said a trial date will be set once she receives Camacho-Duenas’ psychiatric reports. If a jury does in fact find insanity prohibited her from consciously carrying out the double-homicide, she will be committed to the Department of Human Services and released only once specialists determine her hospitalization is no longer needed, Lynch said.
Camacho-Duenas is slated to appear again before Lynch at 11 a.m. Sept. 15.
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