DA: Bring trial back to Moffat County | SteamboatToday.com

DA: Bring trial back to Moffat County

Prosecutors ask judge to reconsider venue in murder case

Cynthia Hankins and Terry Hankins

The legal wrangling in a Moffat County murder case continued Monday morning with a prosecution filing asking the presiding judge to reconsider trial venue.

Terry Hankins, 72, of Craig, is charged in Moffat County District Court with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse in connection with the June 2007 death of his wife, 34-year-old Cynthia Hankins.

He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a three-week jury trial beginning June 15. As of now, the trial’s location is Routt County District Court.

However, Monday’s filing seeks to change that.

“The people respectfully request this court reconsider its previous ruling to move venue to Routt County, and request that venue be returned to Moffat County,” Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Snow wrote in his motion to Michael O’Hara, chief judge of the 14th Judicial District.

O’Hara ruled trial venue be changed to Routt County at the conclusion of a lengthy motions hearing in September 2008.

During the hearing, prosecutors presented recorded confessions of Hankins admitting to killing, dismembering and disposing of his wife. The judge ordered those statements suppressed because he thought investigators had committed a Miranda violation.

He said pre-trial publicity of the statements in Moffat County could be enough to interfere with Hankins’ right to a fair trial.

But, prosecutors appealed the judge’s decision, and the Colorado Supreme Court reversed O’Hara’s ruling, allowing the statements back in.

“Given this change in circumstances, the fact that the press reported some details of those confessions does not present the same danger of unfair prejudice to Mr. Hankins,” Snow wrote in his motion.

“As the court noted in its original ruling, the Moffat County community has an interest in having the case tried locally. The community’s interest should prevail given that the pre-trial publicity will not unfairly impact Mr. Hankins’ right to a fair trial.”

Returning trial venue to Moffat County also would be “beneficial for the victim’s family and the majority of witnesses,” according to the motion.

“The victim’s family has indicated they may be able to stay with some local members of their church in Craig, but do not at this time have the same options in Steamboat (Springs),” the motion reads. “This would obviously reduce the cost to the victim’s family to attend the trial.”

Most of the witnesses in the case live in Moffat County, the motion adds.

“Holding the trial in Moffat County would place less of a burden on them in terms of time and expense. If held in Moffat, most witnesses could go about their daily activities and still be able to testify at trial with just a few minutes notice. If held in Routt, most witnesses would end up spending a much larger amount of time, both traveling and waiting to ensure witnesses were available to testify. There would also be a large increase in the expense of trial to pay for the travel of multiple witnesses.”

All of these factors, Snow wrote, are reasonable reasons to try the case locally.

“Without a showing that venue in Moffat County would prevent the defendant from receiving a fair trial, the additional expense and difficulties to the people, the witnesses and the victim’s family, (and) the community’s interest in having the case tried locally should prevail,” according to the motion.

As of Monday afternoon, there had been no response from Hankins’ public defenders.

Hankins, who has been in custody since August 2007 at Moffat County Jail, is scheduled to appear next at 1 p.m. May 13 in District Court for a pre-trial conference.

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 875-1791, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com

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