Traci Cunningham murder trial postponed, moved
EAGLE — Another murder trial has been postponed and moved out of Eagle County because of problems seating a jury.
Traci Cunningham’s murder trial was supposed to run three weeks beginning Monday. She’s charged with murder in the shooting death of her adoptive mother.
However, problems seating a jury of 14 — 12 jurors and two alternates — forced District Court Judge Russell Granger to move the case to Clear Creek County. It’s now schedule Aug. 17-Sept. 4.
Rossi Moreau’s murder trial was also moved to Clear Creek County. A Clear Creek County jury convicted him of killing one man and wounding four other people during an armed rampage in a West Vail bar and restaurant.
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In Cunningham’s trial, 136 people reported for jury duty Monday morning in the Eagle County Justice Center.
By 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the pool was down to 36 people.
When they returned Wednesday morning for the final round of selections, at least six people asked to speak with Granger about hardships. One woman was in tears before she finished her explanation.
Less than a half hour later, Granger dismissed everyone and set about rescheduling the trial.
“It (jury service) is critical. It is the foundation of our judicial system,” said Cynthia Jones, one of Cunningham’s two defense attorneys. “It is one of the most important pillars on which our country was founded.”
“This is concerning,” Jones said.
Lots of reasons
Along with the pre-trial publicity, several prospective jurors said taking three weeks off could cost them their jobs or ruin their businesses. Several were self-employed and said it could ruin their businesses.
Others cited childcare problems. While jurors are paid $50 a day for their service, childcare expenses are only reimbursed at $3 a day.
Some metro courts have childcare facilities on site for childcare, Jones said.
Some prospective jurors had already booked vacations during next week’s spring break for local schools.
The family of the victim, Penelope Cunningham, came to town for the trial, arriving on the day the trial was postponed.
What police say happened
Police and prosecutors say Traci Cunningham drove her mother, Penelope Cunningham, both of Aurora, to a remote spot 15 miles south of Gypsum on Gypsum Creek Road on Thanksgiving Day 2013.
Police said Traci told them that when her mother got out of the car and started to walk back toward town, Traci started rummaging around in the back seat looking for something to eat. Police say Traci told them she “encountered” a handgun.
She told police she doesn’t remember anything between that time and realizing she was standing in the road with the gun in her left hand. Police say she checked Penelope’s body for a pulse, but found none.
Traci told police she drove back to Aurora like it was all a dream. Penelope’s body was discovered the next day.
Traci was arrested a couple of days later outside a Denver-area coffee shop.
Her defense attorneys, Jones and Dan Shaffer, say she is a victim of abuse and suffers from both PTSD and bi-polar disorder.
A pre-trial conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. on July 16 in Eagle.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@ vaildaily.com.