Rifle murder suspect Johnston may withdraw not guilty plea
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Rifle murder suspect Heath Johnston may forego his April 12, first-degree murder trial.
Johnston’s Public Defender Steve McCrohan filed a motion in Garfield County District Court on March 5, to withdraw the defendant’s “not guilty by reason of insanity plea.”
Johnston, 21, entered the not guilty plea on Aug. 11. He is charged with allegedly killing his brother, Sam Johnston, by shooting him in the back of the head with a shotgun in December 2008, while Sam sat on a couch at his Rifle residence.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Johnston could face life in prison without parole.
Ninth Judicial District Court Judge Gail Nichols set the trail date at a December hearing. McCrohan requested 45 days before setting a trial date saying that more time was needed to determine if a second mental examination on Johnston would be sought by the defense.
Johnston had recently undergone an evaluation at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo in November and December. Johnston was ordered to undergo the examination last October, despite arguments by the defense that his participation in the evaluation would violate his rights to not self-incriminate.
That report was sealed by Judge Nichols in December.
Nichols set the April trial date saying that it allowed enough time for the defense to seek a mental evaluation of their own, if they so choose.
A motions hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
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