Lucas trial delayed until December

Citing concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic, Judge Nicholas Catanzarite declared a mistrial Monday and rescheduled a new trial in early December for former Kremmling police chief Jamie Lucas.

At a motions hearing, Judge Catanzarite opened the proceeding by declaring a mistrial for Lucas, who was origonally set to stand trial Oct. 13-14. Lucas’ trial was rescheduled for Dec. 7-10.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the United States remains a global hotspot for the virus,” Catanzarite said. “I have to weigh this, and I’m balancing the risk posed by COVID-19 with Mr. Lucas’ right to have a speedy trial.”

Catanzarite noted a few specific factors that played into his decision, including the large jury pool that is expected to be called and the length of the trial. 

While it was originally set for two days, District Attorney Matt Karzen asked to expand the trial to four or five days because a large number of witnesses are expected to be called, and Judge Catanzarite and Lucas’ attorney, Jeffrey Eidsness, agreed.

However, Eidsness did object to the mistrial on the grounds that Lucas deserves a speedy trial. 

Per the state’s speedy trial statute, a trial is supposed to happen within six months of entering a plea, unless a judge grants an exception. Due to the pandemic, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that speedy trials could be extended by three months. 

Catanzarite said he expects to have a jury pool of 90-100 people in order to ensure an impartial jury amid intense media coverage of Lucas’ case.

“The more jurors we call, the greater the risk of spreading COVID-19, which I am loathe to do and I think it’s my responsibility to make sure we don’t if at all possible,” Catanzarite said. “I find that the detriment to (Lucas’) speedy trial right is minimal compared with the community safety risk posed.”

After rescheduling the trial, Catanzarite heard motions from Eidsness and Karzen related to calling jurors and disclosing evidence.

Due to media coverage of Lucas’ trial, Catanzarite approved a request from Eidsness to individually question potential jurors about certain conflicts of interest, including how much potential jurors know about the case from the news coverage.

Also in line with those concerns, the judge approved an extended jury questionnaire to help the court determine jurors with potential conflicts.

“The questionnaire would be the standard one we always use, plus some additional questions about their exposure to media, so that before we even get into the courtroom … we (can) decide who needs to be questioned individually,” Catanzarite confirmed with the parties.

Other motions regarding case material were approved, so both parties will receive a list of potential jurors ahead of the trial and should new evidence be discovered, it has to be shared with all parties at least seven days prior to the pretrial conference.

The pretrial conference was also rescheduled to Nov. 30. 

Timeline of events

Dec. 4 – Grand County Sheriff’s Office takes over the investigation into an alleged case of animal abuse involving three juveniles.

Dec. 13 – Fraser Winter Park Police Chief Glen Trainor confirms his department is investigating Kremmling Police Chief Jamie Lucas for potential misconduct.

Dec. 20 – The town of Kremmling places Lucas on paid administrative leave after receiving a letter from the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office that Lucas had been Brady listed.

Jan. 2 – The DA’s office reviewed the Fraser Winter Park Police Department’s investigation after it was completed in December.

Jan. 22 – In response to the allegations of misconduct, Lucas takes a polygraph and requests a special prosecutor. The DA refutes Lucas’ claims.

Jan. 31 – The DA’s office files 15 charges against Lucas after reviewing the concluded Fraser Winter Park Police Department investigation.

April 22 – Kremmling’s town board votes unanimously not to reappoint Lucas as police chief and directs the town manager to begin a job search for a new chief.

May 5 – Lucas pleads not guilty to the charges he faces and a trial is set for Oct. 12-13.

June 15 – Lucas’ attorney files a motion to dismiss the case or appoint a special prosecutor.

June 26 – Karzen files response to Lucas’ motion asking the judge to deny it.

July 17 – Judge Catanzarite issues an order denying Lucas’ motion.

Sept. 21 – Judge Catanzarite declares a mistrial for the October trial and reschedules for Dec. 7-10.

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