Rifle arson trial postponed until 2008
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Robin Clifton’s 21-day arson trial, for which 800 potential jurors had been called, was postponed until Jan. 28, 2008, for an expert witness to continue preparing.Clifton waived his right to a speedy trial.Clifton’s attorney, Arnold Mordkin, represented in an April 20 hearing that he was ready for the trial that had been scheduled to begin May 29 and that there were no unresolved issues.”I thank the court, and I apologize to the court,” he said at the end of a hearing Friday. Judge Denise Lynch granted his motion to continue the trial.Stephen B. Spies of Kentucky, a retired special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, is the expert witness mentioned in the motion. Mordkin indicated in court documents that money from Clifton’s family to retain Spies wasn’t provided until March. They had planned to prepare for the trial through “almost daily” contact but then decided it couldn’t be done.Ninth Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson filed a response to the motion saying his office took no position and the decision would rest entirely at the hands of the court. He admits that there is a “distinct possibility” of a reversal on appeal for ineffective assistance of counsel if Mordkin was forced to try the case as scheduled. Expert testimony about fire science may be critical for both sides of the case, the motion states.In a copy of a fax, Spies indicates that one of his issues is DVDs of the Rifle Amoco station fire.”The DVDs are problematical to say the least,” he writes, saying that their format is incompatible with a normal DVD player and does not allow for stop action and other necessary features. He also said a key problem is that the DVDs lack any “time stamp” that a forensic scientist would need when evaluating the DVDs. Spies listed additional reasons, such as needing to request more records like insurance documents and fire reports.Lynch said if she didn’t postpone the trial the case could probably be tried again because of an appeal. She said she had spent sleepless nights considering the case and latest motion. She said she was upset that attorneys previously had indicated there were no issues this close to the trial.”It’s a great expense to many people,” she said, mentioning the alleged victims, and clerk of the combined courts James Bradford, who had to organize numerous juror calls.The size of the jury pool was a result of heavy pretrial publicity of the case and the anticipated length of the trial. Clifton had sought unsuccessfully to have the trial moved elsewhere because of the amount of local media attention the case had received.Clifton is accused of setting four fires on Sept. 5, 2005, two of which destroyed the Rifle Amoco station and nearly destroyed the Fireside Lanes bowling alley. He also allegedly set other fires, which did not cause extensive damage, at a restaurant and a townhouse under construction.Contact Pete Fowler: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.orgPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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