Beating suspect may have lawyer |

Beating suspect may have lawyer

EAGLE – Russell Thompson may have finally found a lawyer to help him try to clear himself of charges that he beat a friend to death in El Jebel more than four years ago.Thompson said in Eagle County District Court Monday that he is close to reaching a deal with attorney Jeffrey Ryan, a former prosecutor in the Chicago area and a former Summit County judge.”That’s a big dog to have in my corner,” said Thompson.Thompson represented himself in a jury trial for second-degree murder in September 2002 after he fired an attorney from the public defender’s office. He couldn’t afford his own lawyer at that time.A jury convicted him of a lesser charge of manslaughter. Thompson appealed the conviction, and a judge overturned the verdict. He has been out on bond since the conviction was overturned.The District Attorney’s office is retrying him on the manslaughter charge. A trial was set for May. Thompson, who is working as a carpenter in Colorado Springs, said yesterday he will be able to retain Ryan.Ryan confirmed that the chances are “better than 50-50″ that he will represent Thompson. They are working on a financial agreement. But Ryan said the facts of the case also interest him.”From what I’ve been told and what little I’ve investigated, it seems like this guy got shafted,” Ryan said. “I don’t like to see people get shafted and I think he got shafted.”Ryan stressed that he respects cops and prosecutors, but in his former roles in the criminal justice system he witnessed cases where investigations weren’t thoroughly conducted after suspects confessed. It appears that was what happened in Thompson’s case, based on what he knows about it at this point, Ryan said.Thompson called 911 on the night of Feb. 10, 2001, and told a police dispatcher that he killed his friend, Timothy “Chico” Destromp. Police arrested him, and hours later at the jail, Thompson confessed again while being videotaped.He has since recanted. Thompson said he passed out in Destromp’s apartment on Valley Road following an afternoon and evening of heavy drinking. When he came to, the apartment was covered with blood and Destromp was dead or dying.Thompson said he initially assumed he beat Destromp because he was extremely intoxicated and confused. Once he examined police reports and evidence, he became convinced that Destromp was in an adjacent apartment when a fight broke out and it spilled into Destromp’s unit. Thompson claimed he remained passed out during the fight and was understandably confused when he came to later that night.Ryan said Thompson remained convinced for some time that he was responsible for Destromp’s death but evidence that has been unearthed “suggests otherwise.”Eagle County District Judge Richard Hart postponed Thompson’s trial and pre-trial motions hearings yesterday to give him a chance to formally hire Ryan. Hart noted that the case has dragged on for years but felt this delay was unavoidable.”If an attorney is going to enter, we’re all going to feel better if justice is served,” Hart said.Vail, Colorado

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