EAGLE — After a roughly three-month hiatus, courts within Colorado’s 5th Judicial District saw jury trials resume on Monday, with a full day of jury selection for a pending criminal case against Enrique Echevarria-Castro.
The 5th Judicial District spans Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties, where trials have been on hold since mid-November because of public safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Small groups of potential jurors wore face coverings and kept 6 feet apart as they were ushered into and out of Eagle County District Court Judge Paul R. Dunkelman’s courtroom in several phases on Monday, as attorneys worked to select 12 jurors and one alternate for Echevarria-Castro’s trial, which is expected to run through Friday.
The process involved two courtrooms at the Eagle County Combined Courts building, with health assessments and temperature checks as potential jurors checked in. Plexiglas dividers were set up inside the courtroom, with hand sanitizer set out for people to use.
“I want to thank you all for being here today, for honoring your civic duty to come help us do jury trials under very challenging circumstances,” Judge Dunkelman told the first round of potential jurors. “We’ve taken every step we can to make sure we do this in a manner that is safe to you guys and to everybody. We’ve been planning these trials for a long time.”
A backlog of trials has built up within the district, with trials on hold for the last few months and for much of last year.
Echevarria-Castro’s criminal case dates back to October 2018.
According to police, Echevarria-Castro was a passenger in a car that Eagle County Sheriff’s Office deputies investigated in late September of that year, after seeing it stopped in a turn lane in Edwards.
The occupants of the car reportedly told deputies they were traveling from Utah back to Kentucky. During a search of the vehicle, deputies found a backpack on the rear floorboard of the car where Echevarria-Castro was sitting with about 5 pounds of methamphetamine inside it, according to an affidavit.
Echevarria-Castro, 38, faces felony drug and bail bond violation charges, as well as a charge of false reporting to authorities, a misdemeanor. He is being represented by attorney John Scott.
Echevarria-Castro reportedly failed to show up for a three-day trial in Eagle County District Court back in May 2019 while free on $50,000 bond. The driver of the car, Jorge Alcolea-Arcote, 35, reportedly pleaded guilty to two drug felonies in his case and was sentenced to four years in prison.
Jury selection for Echevarria-Castro’s trial was still ongoing as of 5:30 p.m. Monday, with opening arguments scheduled for Tuesday morning.