Opening statements from the defense and prosecution teams were heard on Wednesday morning, as the first-degree murder trial for Michael Montgomery commenced in Glenwood Springs.
Montgomery, 46, is accused of murdering his son-in-law Christopher Gallegos, then 28, in March 2017, outside an apartment complex in Rifle.
While Ninth Judicial District Judge Denise Lynch initially reduced the charges in July 2018, the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed that decision a few months later.
In an Oct. 18, 2018 order, Appellate Judge Anthony Navarro sided with prosecution stating that the Ninth District Court “applied an erroneous legal standard” in dismissing the first-degree murder charge and another charge of felony menacing.
According to Colorado statute, first-degree murder is defined as both intentional and premeditated.
On Wednesday, Prosecutor Zachary Parsons began opening arguments by discussing what the evidence would show the jury throughout the trial.
While it remains unclear what exactly happened on March 29, 2017 outside the Acacia Apartments in Rifle, Parsons argued Montgomery’s fatal shot to the head that killed Gallegos was premeditated.
Parsons asked the jury to look at who the initial aggressor was in the incident, and whether he was provoked in any way, and if lesser force could’ve been used.
According to the prosecution, Montgomery was upset with Gallegos leading up to the confrontation.
The defense questioned that claim.
According to the arrest affidavit, Montgomery’s daughter, Desirae Montgomery, told police investigators that “there has always been a lot of tension between Christopher Gallegos and Michael Montgomery.”
However, the defense painted a slightly different picture.
Both prosecution and defense testimony seemed to indicate that Montgomery arrived at the Acacia Apartments on March 29 looking for money for narcotics he allegedly sold Anthony Bracamontes.
Montgomery arrived at the Acacia Apartments on March 29, 2017 looking for Bracamontes, according to witness statements in the arrest affidavit.
He knocked on one of the apartment doors of the complex and asked Gallegos and the witness where Bracamontes was, states the affidavit.
Bracamontes came a short time later, and he and Montgomery both went out to the front of the apartment building, both the prosecution and defense testimonies indicated.
What happened after that, and why, is where their accounts differ.
The prosecution argued the interaction fit the legal definition of menacing, as Bracamontes was in fear of being hurt or dying.
Defense attorney McCrory argued that the dispute between the two was quashed almost immediately as the two chatted outside.
He said that Bracamontes apologized, and he and Montgomery were all good. The two even smoked a cigarette outside together, he added.
Another point of contention was Gallegos and Montgomery’s relationship prior to the shooting.
“There was not this animosity that the prosecution claims,” he said.
However, once Gallegos came down, reportedly holding a pistol, Montgomery acted in self-defense, the defense claimed.
McCrory said Montgomery fired once he saw Gallegos raise the weapon that was in his hand.
“You will realize there was no premeditation,” he added.
Determining whether or not Montgomery’s actions were premeditated and whether or not he was acting in self-defense will be some of the main questions the jury will have to determine.
The trial continued with testimony from witnesses Wednesday afternoon, and is scheduled to resume Thursday.