Murder case set to go to trial in February
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – The public defenders representing Richard “Rossi” Moreau told District Court Judge R. Thomas Moorhead Monday that they do not expect to change Moreau’s not guilty plea.
Public defenders Dana Christiansen and Reed Owens provided two expert reports, presumed to be mental health reports, to District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and Deputy District Attorney Steve Mallory just before the weekend. Hurlbert said during an August hearing, in which Moorhead granted a continuance of the jury trial until the expert reports were complete, that the defense has been working with the two experts since the end of last December and didn’t believe defenders were trying to merely buy time.
Moreau is charged with eight felonies, including first degree murder, in the Nov. 7, 2009, shooting at the Sandbar in West Vail. Gary Kitching, 70, of Carbondale, died from his injuries in the shooting, which included shots to the chest, left thigh and arm.
Christiansen indicated Monday that the not guilty plea he entered for his client back in June will stand. Owens wouldn’t comment when the defense originally entered the plea on whether it might change once the expert reports became available.
“There may be additional defenses but not a change of plea, per se,” Christiansen said.
Mallory said both expert reports state the same facts – that Moreau has no claim of an insanity defense. Both reports do, however, support “some form of reduced culpability,” Mallory said.
Christiansen told Moorhead the defense will present evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition from which Moreau, a Vietnam veteran, has claimed to suffer for years. Court documents show Moreau blamed the shooting on the disorder almost immediately after it happened.
Military records show Moreau served in Vietnam and earned a Purple Heart, but also cast doubt over whether Moreau’s claims of ground combat are true.
Moorhead asked both prosecutors and defenders whether the expert reports revealed enough information for Moorhead to rule on motions filed over the summer asking for access to Moreau’s medical and mental health records. Without a better understanding of the defense’s “theory of defense,” Moorhead said he couldn’t rule on whether to allow the medical records.
Christiansen said he didn’t think the prosecution should know of the defense’s potential theories of defense because prosecutors could then tailor their arguments around such theories.
Mallory said he and Hurlbert haven’t had the time to thoroughly read through the reports or talk to another expert, which they would need to do in order to know whether the reports make Moreau’s medical records relevant.
“Given the report, we’re obviously going to be needing an expert,” Hurlbert said. “We haven’t had the chance yet to contact an expert.”
Hurlbert said he hopes to make enough progress in reviewing the defense’s expert reports and obtaining a prosecution expert in time for the Jan. 5 pretrial conference.
Moorhead told counsel that should the prosecution gain more information based on their analysis before Jan. 5, both the court and defense attorneys should be made aware of that discovery as soon as possible.
Several pre-trial hearings have been delayed and the trial was moved from a Sept. 20 start date to Feb. 7, 2011, a date the court could potentially postpone again.
Hurlbert decided in March not to seek the death penalty against Moreau, citing a lack of “reasonable probability” that the death penalty could be secured.
Moreau is being held without bail at the Eagle County jail.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or
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