Jury selected in Culverwell trial

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At noon Tuesday, jury selection in Rodney Culverwell's trial had become the longest such process in Michael O'Hara's five-and-a-half-year judgeship.

A little after 5:30 p.m., a jury was chosen.

Fourteen Moffat County residents were selected to hear testimony in the case, including at least three self-described ranchers and another four who said they were hunters.

Culverwell, a 41-year-old Moffat County rancher, is accused of poaching elk on his property this winter. The 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office filed charges in April after a Colorado Division of Wildlife investigation in January and February.

Culverwell is charged with 16 counts of willful destruction of big game, a Class 5 felony; 16 counts of illegal possession of wildlife, a misdemeanor; 16 counts of hunting big game without a license, a misdemeanor; 16 counts of hunting out of season, a misdemeanor; and 16 counts of failure to dress wildlife, a misdemeanor.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The District Attorney's Office originally charged Culverwell with 18 counts of each crime, but two counts of each were dismissed Monday morning before jury selection. Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Snow said he could not comment on the dismissals and no other information was available.

Many of the more than 100 potential jurors summoned to the County Courthouse for jury selection said they knew some, if not most, of the potential witnesses in the case.

The majority said they knew many local residents on the witness list, while a few also said they knew DOW wildlife officers mentioned.

Several added they knew Culverwell and his family.

Most people were not concerned whether they could impartially judge the case because of their relationships. The case itself, however, hit many close to home.

Culverwell's defense attorney, Pamela Mackey, of Denver, has said her defense would be based on the right to defend personal property, a right guaranteed in the U.S. and Colorado constitutions.

She alleged that Culverwell's hay and fences were being destroyed by wildlife this winter, and he had no other alternative than to take other means besides those the DOW provided. The defense does not concede Culverwell killed all the animals alleged by the District Attorney's Office.

Several prospective jurors said they or a family member had or have a ranching business in the county and have had negative interactions with the DOW.

"We have been trying for years to get the DOW to help us with the damage from the elk and the antelope, and no one ever did anything," a prospective juror said. The attorneys dismissed her.

Another prospective juror said wildlife ate 19 tons of hay in one week on his son's ranch this winter, and the DOW did nothing.

The attorneys also dismissed him.

Not all residents were excused because of their opinion of the DOW. One woman said she could not take responsibility for judgment in the case because she is "an animal lover" and does not believe in hunting.

"I am incapable of setting aside my opinion on this matter," she said. "It's something I cannot forget."

The judge dismissed her.

Other possible jurors said they were conflicted, but felt strongly about the charges.

A woman said she had first been "appalled" by what Culverwell may have done, but had a change of heart in the courtroom.

"When you sit in the courtroom and you see Mr. Culverwell," she said, "you see he's just a person like any of us."

Attorneys dismissed her, as well.

Toward the end of the day, Snow asked the remaining would-be jurors about their opinions about a person's right to defend property.

The vote was unanimous that all people should be allowed to defend their property.

However, the jury box also was unanimous in that there are limits to that right.

Each one asked said they would have to hear evidence in the case before they could determine when a person went beyond their rights and should be convicted of criminal charges.

The final 14 jurors were selected from this group.

Culverwell's trial is set to reconvene at 10 a.m. in District Court.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

Comments

oldsage 6 years, 2 months ago

So, if you look at a defendant and say "When you sit in the courtroom and you see Mr. Culverwell," she said, "you see he's just a person like any of us." You are dismissed from the jury. What a prejudicial statement! It was nice to see that the truth was brought out during the selection process that the DOW doesn't do squat to protect the private property of citizens while they collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees. That has to be weighing on the minds of those selected I would think. I wonder how many sleepers we have on the jury?

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Neal Harkner 6 years, 2 months ago

The name Pamela Mackey should sound familiar to folks, especially those on the Western Slope. She was the attorney for Kobe Bryant during the whole rape fiasco.

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jeff corriveau 6 years, 2 months ago

This whole mess could have been avoided if Mr. Culverwell would have taken some of the tens of thousands of dollars he was paid for hunting on his land and simply built a stackyard. That would have been a much more appropriate "protection of his private property". Old Sage: who should be more responsible for taking care of private property rights? The government (DOW) or the individual? I think I've heard you say a number of times that less government is better. Why the change of heart?

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redneckgirl 6 years, 2 months ago

instead he's using that money on a defense attorney.

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ruralmom 6 years, 2 months ago

I believe that we may have lost sight of the issue here. This is a matter between Mr. Culverwell and the law. Mr. Culverwell broke the law by taking actions that directly violates the law. He needs to be responsible for his action and be accountable. The NW Colo. DOW did not personally make the laws they are only doing there job by enforcing them. No different that a police officer arresting a drunken driver. We all benefit from big game's existance, hunter come into town and stay at local motel/hotel, buy groceries, beer and sporting good supplies. Didn't Mr. Culverwell kind of bite the hand that feeds him and us. He participates in Ranching for Wildlife, Big $$$$. Well stated Silentman!!!!

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slipknot 6 years, 1 month ago

After reading about the problems they had trying to get a straight and good jury of "his peers" I fear the state of Colorado will not get a fair trail.

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Joanna Hatten 6 years, 1 month ago

Why don't you people back off about how much money you THINK he made off of HIS land. IT'S HIS JOB!!!! If you happen to make $80000 a year at your job should people look down their noses at you? How much do you know about ranching for wildlife? Its not a free ride. You have to meet MANY qualifications that cost money to even QUALIFY for this program. How about we publish EVERYONES salary and all take cheap shots at each other. Rodney.....good luck and God Bless....I HOPE you get a fair trial.

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grannyrett 6 years, 1 month ago

getagrip-Why don't you get a grip. I understand trying to stand up for your friends, but lets see what happens in court. Rodney's ex-wife did him no favors yesterday. If what she said is true, this is an on going problem that has been a long time coming. Let's hear the facts. We can all have our opinions. Some just don't happen to share yours.

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here_to_stay 6 years, 1 month ago

we talk about protecting our property with the use of panels to keep the animals out of the hay. but how are you going to feed the cows if you keep the hay in the stack yard? one of the biggest problems with the wildlife isn't in the yard it's on the feed lot were the livestock are confronted and drove off the feed buy the wildlife. numerous animals in this valley have been damaged buy wildlife. I just wonder what the DOW is going to do for winter range since alot of it is now black are they going to do more for the wildlife to help them survive this winter or just let the ranchers take care of it for them or better yet just let mother nature finely get fed up and handle it for them. I just hope the DOW gets the picture that managment is cheaper then law inforcement.

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Joanna Hatten 6 years, 1 month ago

Granny....first of all Rodney is not my friend...I barely know the guy. Second...ARE YOU SERIOUS??!! Do you know Connie? Probably not ........because you are a woman. I have watched people in this town dis ranchers because they have the ability to make money with their land. The color green runs rampid in this town. Have your own opinion...thats great....just don't judge the guy before he's even been convicted.

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grannyrett 6 years, 1 month ago

getagrip-No, I don't know Connie. I don't care how much he made off his trespass fees. It's the fact that he really wants the elk there during hunting season and then expects them to disappear afterwards. It doesn't work like that. He doesn't care how much pasture they use during the fall. He advertises that they have big elk. He uses them. "Lots of species available to hunt"-That's what his web page says. That's what he advertises. Then what? Poof! They are suppose to just disappear? Yeah, right.

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