Prosecution rests in murder trial
Judge Michael O’Hara denied a motion from the defense Wednesday to dismiss all charges against Terry Hankins, who is charged with murdering his wife, Cynthia Hankins, in June 2007.
Terry Hankins, who is in custody, is on trial in Moffat County District Court.
After the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office rested its case, public defender Sheryl Uhlmann said the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Terry killed his wife in a premeditated manner and not in self-defense.
Her motion came after the jury left the courtroom.
Terry is charged with first-degree murder, a Class 2 felony, and abuse of a corpse, a Class 2 misdemeanor, in connection with Cynthia’s death.
The trial, which began Aug. 10, won’t reconvene until 8:30 a.m. Monday because of a prior obligation for the judge.
“The evidence, even when considered in a light most favorable to the prosecution, is not substantial or sufficient to be submitted to the jury,” Uhlmann said.
O’Hara disagreed, and used examples from recorded statements made by Terry to law enforcement officials to form the basis of his rulings.
To the question of the murder charge, O’Hara said Terry told law enforcement officers during recorded conversations that he killed Cynthia.
Furthermore, Terry said on the recordings that he choked his wife unconscious and then retrieved a crow bar from another room with the intent of hitting her in the head, the judge said.
“That was a period of time, however brief, where he had the opportunity to exercise judgment about what he was doing,” O’Hara said.
When it came to whether the prosecution proved Terry did not act in self-defense, O’Hara again referenced Terry’s recorded conversations with law enforcement.
In at least one, O’Hara said, Terry stated he began the physical altercation between him and Cynthia that led to her death when he pushed his wife off the bed.
Although Terry gave conflicting accounts of what started that fight, the judge found there was sufficient evidence to let the jury decide a verdict of its own regarding the murder charge.
The second charge in the case, abuse of a corpse, came down to Terry’s recorded statements that he dismembered Cynthia after killing her.
O’Hara ruled the same as with the murder charge – that there was sufficient evidence to send to the jury.
However, he added that his rulings were partially affected by his mandated duty to consider the facts in “the best possible light to the prosecution,” and that the jury will not have the same responsibility.
The remainder of court proceedings Wednesday morning largely revolved around whether the defense could question witnesses about its investigation into Cynthia’s criminal history in Texas.
O’Hara ruled he would have to judge individual statements, questions and objections when they come up.
Uhlmann said an investigator for her office attempted to contact some of Cynthia’s ex-boyfriends who filed police complaints against Cynthia for violent behavior.
The investigator was able to contact two of them, Uhlmann said, one who might testify next week for the defense and another who initially said he was willing to talk, but then changed his mind after he said he spoke with Cynthia’s mother.
Uhlmann also would like to question the investigator about law enforcement officers who did not return calls.
She said the testimony would serve to impeach statements made during trial by Detective Jen Kenney, with the Craig Police Department, and Joseph DeAngelo, an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office.
Both law enforcement officials were lead investigators in Cynthia’s death and told Terry during recorded conversations that they knew he killed his wife in self-defense.
However, they testified they came to believe her death was murder during the course of their investigation after Terry confessed.
Uhlmann said she plans to present evidence that local law enforcement officials did not adequately investigate Cynthia’s criminal history before the District Attorney’s Office chose to prosecute.
When she cross examined DeAngelo last week, the investigator confirmed he had not spoken with any of Cynthia’s five ex-boyfriends who filed complaints against her.
DeAngelo said he tried to find one but never found him and did not specify on the others.
Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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