Murder trial vacated
Judge orders delay while awaiting Supreme Court ruling
November 12, 2008
A Moffat County District Court judge has agreed with a prosecution motion to delay a murder trial, which was scheduled to begin next month.
Michael O’Hara, chief judge of the 14th Judicial District, issued an order late Friday granting a trial stay in the case against Terry Hankins, a 71-year-old Craig man charged with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and was scheduled for a two-week trial beginning Dec. 1 in Routt County District Court.
The trial is postponed, the judge ruled, pending a Colorado Supreme Court decision on an appeal filed by the prosecution.
“Upon notice to this court that the Supreme Court has ruled on (the prosecution’s) appeal, the trial will be reset thereafter as promptly as possible,” O’Hara wrote in his order.
The charges against Hankins, in custody at the Moffat County Jail, stem from the June 2007 death of his wife, 34-year-old Cynthia Hankins, also of Craig.
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The prosecution’s appeal to the Supreme Court and its motion to O’Hara to delay the trial followed the chief judge’s rulings during a seven-day motions hearing in September.
The judge ruled that three key statements made to investigators during the Cynthia Hankins investigation be suppressed because of a Miranda violation.
Prosecutors have said those three statements, during which Hankins confessed to killing and dismembering his wife, are important to their case, and are asking the Supreme Court to reverse O’Hara’s ruling so the statements are available at trial.
Hankins’ defense attorneys countered the prosecution’s motion for a trial stay, claiming it was an improper attempt to delay the proceedings to allow for more time to acquire test results from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
In his ruling, O’Hara disagreed with the defense.
“Although (the) defendant claims that (prosecutors have) filed this appeal to inject a delay so that they may obtain testing results from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation that are not presently available, this court finds that there does appear to be a legitimate issue raised in the appeal that would certainly impact the presentation of evidence in the trial of this matter,” he wrote.
There is no definitive timeline on when the Supreme Court will rule on the appeal.
During the motions hearing, the judge also ordered the trial, originally scheduled for Moffat County District Court, be moved to Routt County.
He cited pre-trial publicity in Moffat County of the suppressed statements as his basis for changing locations, saying public knowledge of the statements were possibly enough to interfere with Hankins’ right to a fair trial.
As of now, prosecutors have not challenged the judge’s ruling to change trial venues.