Jury hears closing arguments in Smith vs. Kremmling trial; verdict expected Wednesday
DENVER — A sobering moment passed through the halls Tuesday of the Byron White U.S. Courthouse, following closing arguments in the civil trial of Robert Mark Smith vs. the town of Kremmling.
Smith and the three accused members of the Kremmling Police Department, surrounded by friends, family and attorneys, waited patiently outside the courtroom for a verdict that never came. After four hours of jury deliberation the halls cleared, and the jury was dismissed until Wednesday morning.
Smith alleges that members of the Kremmling Police Department, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office and a Colorado State Trooper illegally entered his house in Kremmling, and used excessive force while arresting him on March 5, 2013. Police were responding to a welfare check on a woman staying with Smith, and suspected that domestic violence may be involved.
Smith filed a lawsuit against Kremmling Police Chief Scott Spade, Sgt. Todd Willson, Officer Robert Dillon and the town of Kremmling in 2015.
Darold Killmer, counsel for Smith, began the day addressing the jury with his closing arguments, saying that Dillon was insistent on arresting Smith on the night in question, and that he devised a narrative to allow retaliation against Smith. Smith maintains that the incident was meant as retaliation for several letters of protest he send to town officials and for a previous lawsuit.
Smith has a history of dissent with the town of Kremmling. He believes that he has been unfairly discriminated against through the selective enforcement of ordinances, and often voiced his displeasure.
Killmer said Dillon informed other officers at the scene that Smith was dangerous, despite never showing a history of violence. He said that Kremmling Police were confronted with a peaceful situation which they saw as an opportunity to “shut Smith up,” foreseeing a situation that would escalate to force. He also implored the jury not to be afraid to weed out “bad apples” from the police force.
Killmer repeated the sentiment that if the Kremmling Police Department wanted to avoid conflict they would have turned the operation over to the Grand County Sheriff’s Department, knowing their presence would provoke Smith.
Killmer also reiterated that there are still factual disputes as to the use of a Taser during the incident, and that the defense failed to present the Taser or its computer chip as evidence. He also pointed to the physical and psychological damage Smith suffered in the incident, as supported by doctors hired by the prosecution.
Josh Marks, counsel for the defense, emphasized Smith’s longstanding battle with Kremmling. He alluded to Smith’s veteran records that states Smith was “consumed by thoughts of getting even,” though no violent intentions were noted.
Marks said that the incident in 2013 had nothing to do with retaliation. He said the letters Smith wrote and previous confrontations with police were years before, and that they had numerous opportunities to retaliate before 2013 but never did.
Marks asked the jury to consider the totality of the situation. He brought up previous threats made by Smith to Chief Spade and Sgt. Willson, the potential for a domestic violence situation and previous knowledge of firearms in the house as examples.
He also said that it was reasonable for Dillon to be the officer to approach Smith that night, despite a contentious history between the two. He said that Dillon had jurisdiction as the first responding officer, and had successfully arrested Smith in the past without incident.
The jury received the case at about 12:30 p.m. to begin deliberation. Judge Robert Matsch dismissed the jurors at 4:30, and sealed the jury room until tomorrow morning.
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After announcing his candidacy for Grand County Sheriff, former Kremmling police chief Jamie Lucas has taken a job in Nevada.