Stagner case’s outcome angers victims
Victims injured by Michael Stagner and family members of those he killed testified Monday that they are angry and frustrated at the Colorado law that allows Stagner to go to a mental hospital rather than to prison.
In answer to those frustrations, Ninth District Attorney Mac Myers said he’ll use the remaining two years of his term to get that law – based on the Supreme Court decision in the Colorado v. Serravo case – changed so that similar cases won’t happen in Colorado in the future.
On July 3, 2001, Stagner, now 43, went on a shooting rampage, killing four Mexicans and injuring three others. He pleaded innocent by reason of insanity in January and is in the midst of a two-day trial to the court.
A trial to the court is a nonjury proceeding designed first to show that Stagner actually committed the crime, then to let psychiatrists explain to the public and to the court why they came to the conclusion that he was legally insane at the time of the shootings.”What I want here is justice … I think it is unjust what is being done,” Luis Enrique Quintaro testified through a court interpreter.
Quintaro was at the Bookcliff RV Park when the shootings occurred the night of July 3, 2001. He was not shot, but his brother-in-law, Juan Carlos Medrano Velasquez, was shot and killed.
The other people killed were Juan M. Hernandez-Carrillo, 44, Angelica Toscano-Salgado, 19, and Melquiades Medrano-Velasquez, 23.
“I don’t understand the laws of Colorado. He killed four and hurt three, I don’t understand how he could just be put in a hospital. We want justice. We really want justice,” Quintaro said.
Rodolfo Beltran Perez also testified. He said he was shot in the shoulder by Stagner.
“I was out there and that’s when I heard someone say, `f***** Mexican,’ and that’s when he shot me,” Beltran said.
Beltran said he still hasn’t recovered physically or financially.
“Everything is just so much more tense,” he said.
Beltran, like Quintaro, also said justice is not being served.
“I don’t think things are being done like they should be done,” Beltran said. “They’re saying he’s insane, but he really didn’t act like a person who was insane. Any of us could have done things like him.
“I don’t think this is the way we should proceed in handling things like this. I don’t think it’s correct.”
Beltran then asked the court to think of the victims when deciding how to deal with the case.
“It’s not fair we’re treated this way,” he said.
Myers said he agrees with Beltran and Quintaro, but the way the law currently reads, there’s nothing he can do about it. He can, however, work to get that law changed.
Stagner was found innocent by reason of insanity, Myers said, because of the landmark Colorado Supreme Court decision in the Colorado v. Robert Pasqual Serravo case.
That case, decided by the high court in January 1992, stemmed from the 1987 incident where Serravo stabbed his wife, injuring her. The state Supreme Court ruled that Serravo was able to distinguish right from wrong, but he had a psychotic delusion that God ordered him to commit the act, otherwise known as a “deific decree.”
The Stagner case is similar. While Stagner seems to have known he did something wrong at the time of the shootings, it was found that he had delusions that God ordered the killings.
“Sometimes even if someone knows they’re violating the law, they can still be found legally insane,” Dr. David Johnson testified Monday.
Johnson, a staff psychiatrist at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, evaluated Stagner in 2001.
“Deific decree means a person thinks he’s acting under a higher power’s command,” Johnson said.
“If (the Serravo case) was not there, he would have been found sane,” Myers said. With that law on the books, he added, Colorado has one of the most liberal interpretations of legal sanity in the United States.
Myers said he hopes to use the state District Attorney Council to get the state’s sanity statutes changed.
After describing some details about the evaluation conducted on Stagner, Johnson testified that Stagner could pose a danger if he is ever let out of the mental hospital.
“I think he remains dangerous and will remain so for the foreseeable future,” Johnson said.
In all, 13 people testified Monday. Six were either victims or relatives of victims; six were in some capacity of law enforcement; and one was a psychiatrist who evaluated Stagner.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz is expected to be the lone witness testifying at today’s hearing. Today is also expected to be the last day of the trial to the public.
“(Dietz) will have a Powerpoint presentation. It should be very interesting,” chief deputy district attorney Gretchen Larson said.
Tonight, the District Attorney’s Office, Rifle Police Department and the U.S. Department of Justice will be on hand at a bilingual discussion of the trial.
The discussion, hosted by the city of Rifle, is to help people understand exactly why Stagner was found insane and answer any questions about the trial from the public at large.
The discussion will run from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, located at the corner of 7th and Birch streets in Rifle.
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