No jury trial for Stagner?
For the first time in the year since Michael Stagner was arrested for allegedly killing four Mexicans in Rifle, district attorney Mac Myers acknowledged there might be no jury trial.”At this time, no expert witness has found the defendant sane at the time of the crime. If Dr. (Richard) Pounds, Dr. (Daniel) Martell and Dr. (Park) Dietz find the defendant insane at the time of the crime, it is possible that there would be no need for a jury trial on the merits,” Myers wrote. This revelation was part of a motion filed June 27 by Myers to request a delay in Stagner’s trial from its scheduled start date of July 29 until sometime in September. A similar situation occurred in July 1998 in Colorado’s First Judicial District. Lakewood mother Bethe Feltman waived her right to a jury trial and instead faced First District Judge Ruthanne Polidori in a public court trial.Undisputed reports from two psychiatrists led Polidori to conclude after a one-hour trial that Feltman was insane when she killed 3-year-old Benjamin and 3-month-old Moriah on April 9, 1997, in a bout of postpartum depression, according to a story in the Rocky Mountain News. Feltman was allowed to leave the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo last November after being there for four years and return home to live with her husband, the News reported. If Stagner is found to be insane after his pending examination at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, he, too, could waive a jury trial and instead go before a judge who would determine if he is insane. The Rifle shootings occurred the night of July 3, 2001 – exactly one year ago Wednesday. Juan Hernandez-Carrillo, Melquiades Medrano-Velazquez, Juan Carlos Medrano-Velazquez and Angelica Toscano-Salgado were shot and killed near the Bookcliff Mobile Home Park in Rifle. Three others were injured. In remembrance of those killed, the General Consulate of Mexico in Denver issued a statement Wednesday:”It has been one year and still no justice has been served!” the statement said. “It has been one year to this day that the horrible crime was committed against the Mexican workers in Rifle, Colorado. The General Consulate of Mexico in Denver is still seeking justice for the victims and their families.”In his motion, Myers cited a delay in Stagner’s second sanity examination, possible delays with blood testing related to the case and the possibility of no trial being necessary as compelling reasons to delay it until September. Stagner’s public defenders, Greg Greer and Jamie Roth, filed a countermotion July 1 objecting to Myers’ request. They claim “no valid reason for continuing this case, much less expanding the speedy trial period, has been offered by the prosecution.”Specifically, they claim:-Pounds – the psychiatrist assigned to replace Dr. Richard Miller as the psychiatrist to give Stagner a mental examination because of an unexpected surgery for Miller – said he would be finished with the examination in time for a set of motion hearings set for July 15 through July 17. -Since Greer and Roth are two of the three members of the public defender office, they have already had to do some major schedule juggling in order to be able to attend the trial. -A jury questionnaire has already been sent out specifically for a July 29 trial start date. “The timing of the prosecution’s request is interesting, coming just days after these questionnaires were mailed out,” the motion said. -Several witnesses postponed or canceled vacations to be available for the trial. “Significant problems could arise with regard to witness availability should the trial be continued,” the motion said.In response to these motions, Ninth District Judge T. Peter Craven ruled he will decide whether to postpone the trial at a hearing on July 15. Stagner, 43, faces 19 charges, including eight counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder. He was arrested July 3, 2001, just minutes after allegedly shooting seven Mexicans. Since his arrest he has been held without bond in the Garfield County Jail. If convicted of the murder charges, he could receive the death penalty or life in prison, but if found not guilty by reason of insanity, he could be relegated to a mental hospital.
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The Glenwood Springs-Rifle sports rivalry goes way back for GSHS baseball coach and former Demons multi-sport student-athlete Eric Nieslanik.