Edward Montour guilty plea ruling: David Lane on death penalty, James Holmes, "bloody 18th"
At a February hearing, Edward Montour sought to withdraw his guilty plea for a 2002 murder in an effort to avoid the death penalty he'd previously sought. The office of 18th Judicial District DA George Brauchler, who's also seeking death for accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes, argued against such a move, but a judge has now granted it; see his order below. Montour attorney David Lane sees the ruling as just and uses strong language to criticize capital punishment, Brauchler and what he calls the "bloody 18th."
Photos, document below.
In 2002, as our Alan Prendergast has reported, Montour was an inmate at the Limon Correctional Facility, having been given a life sentence for the murder of his eleven-week-old daughter. While there, he killed again, using a heavy ladle found in the jail's kitchen to end the life of correctional officer Eric Autobee, 23.
Autobee was the first prison worker to be killed by an inmate in a Colorado Department of Corrections institution in 73 years.
Montour pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 2003 and was sentenced to death -- something he appeared to invite. "He had been off his meds at the time of the crime and the guilty plea," Lane says. "But over time, he was finally appropriately medicated by the Department of Corrections, and now that his mental illness is no longer the driving force in his life," he no longer wants to "commit suicide by court."
Four years later, the Colorado Supreme Court tossed the death penalty because it was imposed by a panel of judges rather than a jury. But rather than take capital punishment off the table, Carol Chambers, Brauchler's predecessor as 18th Judicial District DA, sought to get the penalty reinstated, prompting a series of legal efforts on Lane's part.
In his view, "taking Montour through another penalty phase was a double-jeopardy violation." However, this theory was rejected by the Colorado Supreme Court, federal district court and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take the case -- "so we filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea based on numerous problems that were associated with it, not the least of which was that the court and the DAs mis-advised him on the law when he was pleading guilty.
"He was told that if he pleaded guilty, he would lost his right to appeal his conviction and he was waiving all his constitutional rights, including his right to a lawyer. There were a lot of flat-out incorrect statements made in advising him of the consequences of the guilty plea."
Ultimately, though, Douglas County District Court Judge Richard B. Caschette used a different rationale to allow Montour to withdraw his plea. Lane shorthands it like so: "He had a long history of mental illness and he had been found not competent to proceed by one judge, who later reversed himself on that issue. So it was a very close question about whether he was competent. But in a death penalty case, the U.S. Supreme Court holds to a standard of 'heightened reliability,' and given that his competency was in question, the judge said he can withdraw his guilty plea and continue to trial."
Continue for more about the Edward Montour guilty plea ruling, including photos and the judge's order.