Our View: A question of venue

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Craig Editorial Board, January 2009 to April 2009

  • Bryce Jacobson, newspaper representative
  • Jennifer L. Grubbs, newspaper representative
  • Collin Smith, newspaper representative
  • Marianna Raftopoulos, community representative
  • Luke Schafer, community representative
  • John Smith, community representative
  • Lois Wymore, community representative

— As it stands today, three months from now prosecutors from the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office and two public defenders will appear before a judge and jury and argue the case of a Craig man accused of killing his wife, a Craig woman.

Due to a series of court rulings, this trial is scheduled to occur in another jurisdiction, Routt County District Court.

It shouldn't be, the Editorial Board contends.

The alleged crimes occurred in Moffat County, and Moffat County citizens and no others have the right to decide it.

The case against Terry Hankins, a 72-year-old man being held at the Moffat County Jail on charges of first-degree murder, abuse of a corpse and other charges, has been ongoing in Craig and Moffat County since August 2007.

During a motions hearing in September 2008, Michael O'Hara, chief judge of the 14th Judicial District, ruled that key statements in the case be suppressed.

He thinks authorities committed a Miranda violation during the Hankins investigation and ruled that a jury would not be allowed to hear statements Hankins made to investigators.

As part of its coverage of the motions hearing, the newspaper published those statements.

Based on this pre-trial publicity, the judge determined that the trial should be moved to Routt County, where there would be less public knowledge of the statements in question.

However, soon after the judge's decision on the statements, the District Attorney's Office appealed O'Hara's ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court eventually overruled the judge, allowing the statements back into the case.

At a recent hearing, O'Hara said he would consider any motions filed in the case, including venue. If prosecutors formally ask the judge to reconsider the trial's location, O'Hara said he would do so.

The Editorial Board hopes prosecutors make that request.

Murder is the most serious offense a society deals with, and allowing that responsibility to be handed off to someone else is an affront to the people of Moffat County.

Cynthia Hankins, the victim, was perhaps not well known in our community, but she lived here as part of our community.

Whether Terry Hankins is guilty is a decision that rests with a jury of honest, open-minded and impartial people, the Editorial Board believes.

There is no reason we can't find that here in Moffat County.

Comments

als362 5 years, 7 months ago

The reason for having a change of venue in these types of cases is to take public opinion out of the picture. If these changes of venue never occurred, many trial verdicts would be driven by this public opinion, and that is wrong. Everyone has the right to a fair and IMPARTIAL jury of their peers. Change of venue is a necessary tool for the defense, and must be used by the judicial system to attain fair decisions. If these types of things are not done, then cases are dragged out in the appeals court system for many more years than should be necessary. For these reasons I think the newspaper's view is wrong.

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