Mental illness takes the spotlight in Moreau juror questioning
Vail, CO Colorado
GEORGETOWN, Colorado – Throughout day two of juror questioning in the murder trial of Richard “Rossi” Moreau, the public defenders made it obvious that Moreau’s mental state would be a major topic of his defense throughout the trial.
Public defender Dana Christiansen wanted to know if potential jurors would be able to look at the “culpable mental state” of the defendant. He asked potential jurors if seeing Moreau commit the crimes he is charged with – which Christiansen acknowledged would be shown on video tape and that “there’s no question” Moreau shot the victims – and then having to consider his mental state would be too “hanky.”
District Court Judge R. Thomas Moorhead thanked the group of about 90 prospective jurors at the beginning of the second day of juror questioning Monday in Georgetown, acknowledging the major inconvenience it likely was for most of them to attend jury duty.
The trial of Moreau, accused of first-degree murder and seven other felonies for the Nov. 7, 2009, shootings at the Sandbar in West Vail, was moved to Clear Creek County after attorneys determined an impartial jury could not be sat in Eagle County. Opening statements could begin today if attorneys are able to select 12 jurors and 2 alternates.
About a dozen people were dismissed Monday, with eight total peremptory dismissals by the attorneys – meaning they chose to dismiss jurors without having to provide a reason to the court – and others who were dismissed for other reasons. The defense and prosecution are allowed 12 peremptory challenges each.
All attorneys were present Monday – public defenders Christiansen and Reed Owens, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Mallory – as was Moreau, who wore a brown suede jacket, blue denim shirt, bolo tie and blue jeans. Moreau was seated closest to the prospective jury pool, as the attorneys tables face diagonally toward the judge’s bench, with the juror box of 14 seats also facing the judge’s bench diagonally, opposite from the attorneys’ tables.
Hurlbert asked jurors some basic law questions. He wanted to know if the prospective jurors could generally define “beyond a reasonable doubt” and “after deliberation.”
Hurlbert asked whether the jurors believed that people often use mental illness as an excuse for things. He asked whether they agreed that if by looking at a person’s actions, the jurors could determine intent based on those actions. He asked if and how they could determine whether a person is telling the truth.
Hurlbert asked what first-degree murder means to the prospective jurors. He asked if they watched the CSI shows on television, and also if jurors knew what forensic evidence is. He told the jurors that the shootings were caught on videotape and that jurors would watch that video during the trial. He then asked if anyone wouldn’t be able to watch the tape and render a verdict – one woman later said she didn’t want to see the video and was dismissed.
Christiansen’s questions focused more on the “culpable mental state” of Moreau. He, too, told the prospective jurors that Moreau was caught on video committing the crimes in question, but that it would be the prosecution’s burden of proof to prove “the culpable mental state,” which he defined as “intentionally – the conscious objective is to cause the specific result proscribed by the stature defining the offense.”
He went on to talk about “after deliberation,” defining it as “a decision that is made after reflection and judgment … never a action that has been committed in a hasty or impulsive manner.”
One dismissal came when one prospective juror told Hurlbert he didn’t think he could convict, regardless of the evidence presented, because he “wouldn’t want that in my mind for the rest of my life.”
Another man was later dismissed who said he had “similar charges” brought against him in the past to those brought against Moreau. Another man was dismissed because he said he had already developed an opinion of guilt in the case, and another woman soon after provided the same explanation and was also dismissed.
One woman, a former correctional officer with many friends and family members in law enforcement and corrections, was dismissed. A man with a Ph.D. in biological anthropology was also dismissed.
A man who slouched in his seat with his eyes closed and sighed when Moorhead asked him to remove his hat was also later dismissed. The man had said he held a master’s degree and a Ph.D., and also ran a medical marijuana dispensary.
Jury selection continues today with the remaining 65 or so prospects.