Edward Montour case: Juror blasts "abhorrent" prosecution
Last week, after battling for more than a decade to execute Edward Montour Jr. for the 2002 murder of guard Eric Autobee at the Limon prison, prosecutors abruptly caved on the second day of his trial, agreeing to a deal that will keep Montour in prison for life without parole.
Edward Montour Jr.
The experience left at least one juror deeply frustrated over the waste of time and money devoted to the case -- and deploring the "shameful" behavior of the prosecution in doggedly seeking the death penalty.
This pursuit continued even after evidence surfaced that Montour had been wrongfully convicted for the crime that sent him to Limon in the first place.
Nate Becker, it should be noted, works on the financial side of a criminal defense law firm specializing in DUIs. But attorneys on both sides of the Montour case considered him impartial enough to serve as one of the twelve jurors (and six alternates) selected out of a pool of more than 2,100 candidates over the past two months. The panel was dismissed last Friday -- two days after hearing opening arguments in the case, and hours after the Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney's Office, led by George Brauchler, hammered out the deal with Montour's defense team.
In a letter to Westword, Becker describes what attorneys shared with him after the case was over. Here's the letter in its entirety:
Now that this case is over, I'm allowed to speak about what I saw, heard and how I felt. On Friday I was released from jury duty on this case. I was one of the eighteen jurors (presumptive twelve and six alternates) who were empanelled in this case and whose job it was to determine guilt and if we found the defendant guilty, to then determine whether or not he should receive the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. I was told on Friday after the case concluded that I was one of the twelve jurors who was going to be deliberating on this case and that I was not an alternate.Continue to keep reading Edward Montour juror Nate Becker's letter blasting the prosecution of the case.
Let me start by saying that I think the final outcome was just and right for both sides. The games played to get there, and the refusal by the District Attorney's office to turn over evidence and to seek the truth and to seek justice in this case and in all cases, is abhorrent. The millions of taxpayer dollars spent seeking the death penalty instead of improving and updating corrections facilities, providing better law enforcement and corrections training, improving mental health treatment, and trying to prevent violent crime is shameful. Having a death penalty does not prevent crime. It simply costs the people of Colorado millions of dollars and somehow gives us some false sense of security and justice.
18th Judicial District DA George Brauchler, prosecutor in the Montour case.
I spoke with the Judge, the Defense team and the [deputy] District Attorneys assigned to this case after court on Friday. Both of the prosecuting District Attorneys admitted that the original murder case, where the Defendant was convicted of murdering his eleven-week-old daughter, Taylor, was likely to be overturned, as the "evidence was overwhelming." They were crying foul that the Judge "hamstrung" them by letting the Defense "retry" the El Paso case to us. The DA's office believed that we would feel sorry for the Defendant as the DAs and elected DA George Brauchler had no doubt that we would walk away believing that the defendant was wrongfully convicted and wrongfully imprisoned. Thus, our sympathy for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment would cause us not to impose death, and as a result the DA's office felt they must get life without parole so Montour never sees the outside of a prison.
The DA's office made no attempt to further investigate the wrongful conviction and imprisonment and instead threw roadblock after roadblock at the Defense to attempt to prevent them from obtaining the records needed to prove this, and to further prevent them from being able to tell the jury -- as we might feel sorry for a man who was mentally ill, wrongfully accused of killing his daughter, wrongfully imprisoned, wrongfully labeled a baby killer in prison, where he was the at the bottom of the totem pole. He was raped, beaten and tormented while in prison, as baby killers are scum and despised just like child molesters are. Essentially, the District Attorney's Office was concerned that telling the jury the truth might cause us to not impose the death penalty. What is wrong with this picture and this mentality?
"We felt the truth might cause you to feel sympathy and mercy, so we tried to prevent the Defense from presenting the truth to you through legal games and maneuvers. When the judge forced us to give up this information, we decided to give the deal the Defense had been asking for since the original sentence was overturned and the original plea withdrawn. The Judge forced us to give the Defense the medical information and X-rays that helped proved the Defense's allegations and assertions that Montour was innocent of killing his daughter. Instead of forwarding that information to the DA's office in El Paso County to investigate the veracity and credibility of the evidence, we decided to throw in the towel because we didn't have enough time to find 'experts' to rebut Defense allegations."
David Lane represented Edward Montour at trial.
So let me get this straight -- you didn't have enough time to rebut the defense's experts, so you had no other choice? What about finding experts to look at the defense's evidence to first determine its credibility and to ensure the state didn't wrongfully convict someone, before we just try to find experts to automatically rebut whatever evidence the defense is presenting. Isn't the DA's job to seek the truth and justice in all cases? Not just convict the accused? The DA's office admits that the evidence is overwhelming evidence of innocence, so it is going to take us quite some time to find experts that will testify to the contrary. Really? That is what our system has become? Simply lining up experts that will automatically testify to the contrary to whatever the other side says, regardless of the credibility, reliability and veracity of the evidence?
At no time did the DA's office say we imprisoned an innocent man, so we felt life without parole was fair for what he did to Eric Autobee. Instead, once the judge decided we couldn't cover this up any more, we were so handcuffed by his decision that we had to cut a deal. This wasn't our choice or our fault. Don't blame us, we tried everything to kill Edward Montour Jr. Blame the judge, it is the judge's fault as we were not given enough time to find people who would testify to whatever we wanted them to testify to....