16-year-old accused in murder appears in court
Lawyers debate evidence and what should be admitted
Attorneys debated for eight hours Tuesday whether a 16-year-old accused of murder was well-advised when he allegedly confessed to the crime.
Hugo Silva-Larios — the boy accused of shooting Craig resident James Pogline, 32, in October — was in court Tuesday for a motions hearing. He was led into district court wearing handcuffs and a gray-and-white striped jail-issue jumpsuit.
The motions amounted to one thing: defense attorney Kristopher Hammond wanted evidence that could incriminate his client excluded. Hammond argued that police stopped Silva-Larios on the pretext that the vehicle he was driving had a broken tail light. Without that pretext, Hammond said, officers may have never found the .22-caliber, sawed-off shotgun in the back of the vehicle or the pistol under the passenger seat.
In a second motion, Hammond argued that Silva-Larios’ father advised his son to keep talking to police officers without knowing what his son was being accused of.
Shortly after police radios echoed with the call that there had been a shooting at Timberglen Apartments and that two male Hispanics had been seen racing away in a multi-colored Bronco, Colorado State Patrol Trooper Marty Smith saw a red and silver sport utility vehicle which he believed contained two males.
“I felt the vehicle description was similar enough that it was worth investigating, so I turned around on the vehicle,” Smith said in court.
He said he pulled the vehicle over because he thought it had a broken tail light.
Another officer arrived on the scene and approached the vehicle. He said he saw the weapons when he shined his flashlight into the vehicle.
Smith testified that none of the vehicle’s three occupants had any identification and that Silva-Larios was driving without a license or registration — violations that would have allowed Smith to take him into custody anyway.
There is no provision in Colorado that prevents officers from making a “pretext” stop, prosecutor Kerry St. James said, even if Smith hadn’t had cause.
“The court should not indulge in unrealistic second-guessing of police officer actions,” he said. “It’s not logical to say this was an unreasonable search.
“This can’t be characterized as anything other than a reasonable search and seizure that resulted from reasonable suspicion.”
One of Silva-Larios’ passengers, Mallory Johnston, first told officers the trio had been at Loaf N Jug, but later recanted and offered to “tell me the whole story,” Smith said.
He testified that Johnston told officers she and a friend went to Pogline’s apartment to get a cellular phone and some jewelry that had been left there.
“Knowing Pogline’s temper, they asked Silva-Larios and (Alex) Chavez to come along to act as bodyguards,” Smith said.
He said Johnston told him that while at Pogline’s apartment, there was a confrontation.
She ran out and heard a shot, but did not see who had done the shooting.
Silva-Lario’s story is different. According to transcripts of the interview conducted on the night of his arrest, Silva-Larios told officers that he ran out of the apartment after Pogline pulled out a gun. Pogline followed Silva-Larios who allegedly saw him around a corner and shot him.
That was one of several statements that Hammond tried to get thrown out Tuesday.
Fourteenth Judicial District Judge Michael O’Hara ruled that Smith had cause to pull Silva-Larios over, and that it wasn’t unreasonable for Smith to consider that the occupants of the vehicle might have been involved in a shooting that had been reported minutes before at a location less than two miles away from the stop.
“It does not offend this court’s sensibilities at all that an officer has multiple reasons for stopping a vehicle as long as those are within the law,” O’Hara said.
O’Hara will rule today on whether officers used coercion during the interrogation of Silva-Larios and whether the adult advising Silva-Larios — his father — was properly informed about the charge.
Silva-Larios, who speaks no English, listened passively to Tuesday’s testimony through a headset connected to a microphone into which a Mesa State College Spanish teacher translated.
Benito Baca, an immigration enforcement agent with the Department of Homeland Security’s department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was Silva-Larios’ interrogator on the night of the shooting.
Silva-Larios’ attorneys argued that Baca did not divulge the reason they were questioning Silva-Larios and that he continued the interview after Silva-Larios asked to stop.
“When his father signed his Miranda rights, he didn’t know there’d been a shooting,” Hammond said.
O’Hara watched the three-hour interrogation tape late Tuesday to determine whether the claims had merit. He’ll make his ruling today.
Pogline’s parents were supported by six others in the courtroom. Silva-Larios’ parents were there, but were asked to leave because his father would likely be called to testify.
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