Third trial delayed for trucker accused in trooper's death

Attorneys await Colorado Court of Appeals decision regarding case

Posted 8/20/19

A November trial for a man accused of crashing into and killing a Colorado state trooper in 2016 has been postponed while attorneys wait for a decision from the Colorado Court of Appeals regarding …

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Third trial delayed for trucker accused in trooper's death

Attorneys await Colorado Court of Appeals decision regarding case

Posted

A November trial for a man accused of crashing into and killing a Colorado state trooper in 2016 has been postponed while attorneys wait for a decision from the Colorado Court of Appeals regarding the case.

November would have marked the start of a third trial for Noe Gamez-Ruiz. His case has twice ended in a mistrial, both times after prosecutors were accused of discovery violations.

The former truck driver for U.S. Foods was arrested after he allegedly hit and killed Trooper Cody Donahue on Nov. 25, 2016. Donahue was investigating a separate crash on the shoulder of Interstate 25 near Castle Rock when Gamez-Ruiz passed in his U.S. Foods truck.

District Court Judge Shay Whitaker dismissed a Class 5 felony of criminally-negligent homicide, the top charge against Gamez-Ruiz, as a penalty against prosecutors for the second mistrial. She lowered the charge from a Class 6 felony following the first mistrial.

The 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office filed an appeal of the dismissed felony on March 4, but the court has not yet ruled on the appeal.

While charges hang in limbo, the prosecution and the defense agreed during an Aug. 19 status conference that Gamez-Ruiz's next trial, set to begin Nov. 4, should be vacated. District Court Judge Jeffrey Holmes agreed to the request and set the next hearing, a status conference, for Oct. 30.

The Colorado Court of Appeals will decide if throwing out the felony charge was an appropriate sanction for the mistrial. District Attorney George Brauchler called Whitaker's move too severe.

If the appellate court rules in the prosecution's favor, Gamez-Ruiz would again face a felony charge. If not, the case would proceed on the remaining charges.

Gamez-Ruiz still faces charges of careless passing of an emergency vehicle and careless driving resulting in death. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, including the felony.

Defense attorneys have argued the incident was a tragic accident, while prosecutors maintain Gamez-Ruiz could have avoided hitting Donahue.

Brauchler told Holmes he'd spoken with Donahue's widow, Velma, who supported vacating the next trial.

A new trial date can be set whenever the Colorado Court of Appeals decides on the appeal.

Brauchler was not sure when the Colorado Court of Appeals would make a decision. There's no timeframe in which a ruling is required, he said. Drawing out the case further is not ideal for either side, he said.

“I'm sure it's frustrating for the defense. I'm certain it's frustrating for the victim (Velma),” Brauchler said following the court appearance. “This is the last formal reminder of the death of her husband.”

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