Cynthia Hankins and Terry Hankins

Cynthia Hankins and Terry Hankins

Prosecution reply paves way for judge's ruling

Attorneys attempt to resolve trial date question

Prosecutors trying Terry Hankins' first-degree murder case responded Friday to ongoing written motions in the case, replying to a previous argument made by the defense.

Hankins, 71, of Craig, is charged with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse in connection with the June 2007 death of his wife, 34-year-old Cynthia Hankins, also of Craig.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Motions made in the case are attempting to resolve whether the accused gold miner, in custody at the Moffat County Jail, will go to trial Dec. 1 in Routt County District Court, as scheduled.

During a seven-day motions hearing in September, Michael O'Hara, chief judge of the 14th Judicial District, ruled that three recorded confessions Hankins gave investigators be suppressed because of a Miranda violation.

The 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office filed an appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court seeking to reverse the judge's ruling and followed the appeal with a separate motion, this one with O'Hara, to delay the trial until the Supreme Court hands down its ruling.

Hankins' public defender, Sheryl Uhlmann, filed an objection to the prosecution's motion to delay the trial, as well as a motion to dismiss the appeal. She contended the pending appeal was "improperly taken for the purposes of delay" so prosecutors could have additional time to obtain test results.

Prosecutors Carl Stahl and Jeremy Snow filed a reply Friday.

This should be the last legal hurdle for Judge O'Hara to consider before making a decision on whether to delay trial until the Supreme Court rules.

The reply states:

"The Supreme Court's decision in this case will drastically affect the nature of the trial," according to the document. "If the case proceeds with three detailed confessions by the defendant coming into evidence, fewer witnesses and less forensic evidence will need to be presented.

"If the suppression order is upheld, significantly more witnesses (most of whom reside out of the area) will need to be called and substantially more forensic evidence will be introduced in a more detailed manner."

The reply also disputed the defense's claim that the appeal and motion to postpone trial were made for "improper purpose of delay."

"The defendant is incorrect in this assertion," according to the document. It adds, "The people have certified to this court and the Supreme Court that the appeal is not taken for the purposes of delay and that the evidence is a substantial part of the proof of the charge pending against the defendant.

"It can hardly be logically contested that three detailed confessions to the crime constitute a substantial" part of the case against Hankins, prosecutors wrote in the reply.

O'Hara used the statements' suppression as his basis for relocating the trial to Routt County, citing pretrial publicity in Moffat County of the statements as enough to possibly interfere with Hankins' right to a fair trial.

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

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