Vail murder trial delayed again
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE, Colorado – The trial date for the case against Richard “Rossi” Moreau, who is charged with murder and seven other felonies for the Nov. 7, 2009, shooting at the Sandbar in West Vail, was delayed until July 8 at a pre-trial hearing Wednesday afternoon.
The trial delay is the second in the case, which was originally set to go to trial in September of 2010. District Attorney Mark Hurlbert told Judge R. Thomas Moorhead Wednesday that the postponed trial date of Feb. 4 would be too soon.
“We feel we could not go forward with the trial on February 4,” Hurlbert said.
Public defenders Dana Christiansen and Reed Owens waited for mental health expert reports for several months, which has caused the postponement of several hearings since last fall. Hurlbert said that since the District Attorney’s Office just received copies of those expert reports on Dec. 16, that there simply isn’t enough time to prepare for a February trial date.
Deputy District Attorney Steven Mallory filed a motion Wednesday for specific discovery in the case, including records from a three and a half hour psychological interview with Moreau from last January, medical records, military records and cell phone messages Moreau left with his friend and psychologist Darlene Hoffman on the night of the shooting, among other interviews and records.
The requests involve information that the defense’s mental health expert relied upon for his diagnosis.
Hurlbert said that some of the items requested could be obtained quickly, while others could take some time, citing yet another reason the February trial date would be too soon. Christiansen and Owens did not object to a new date.
Moreau appeared in court dressed in blue jeans, a collared shirt and tweed blazer. While chatty with his attorneys as he entered the courtroom, he did not look toward the courtroom’s public seating area, where the widow of the man Moreau is accused of killing sat quietly with a victim’s advocate.
Lani Kitching, of Carbondale, was there the night her husband, Gary Kitching, died. She was hiding behind a couch about 10 feet away when her husband was shot in the chest, left thigh and arm, according to police reports.
Video surveillance from the shooting shows Lani Kitching stand over her husband for a brief moment as police escort her away from the scene.
The defense’s expert witnesses provided two psychological evaluations of Moreau that the District Attorney’s Office is now trying to corroborate with its own expert witness. Hurlbert told the court Wednesday that he has yet to obtain a witness.
Mallory’s motion for more discovery cites several claims made in the defense experts’ findings, including that Moreau may be “odd and eccentric” but was “alert and oriented” during interviews.
The reports also state that Moreau provided answers to questions that appeared to be “exaggerated, if not fabricated.”
“Mr. Moreau is considered a poor historian with respect to personal events and reported time lines,” according to excerpts of the mental health reports that appear in Mallory’s motion. “Mr. Moreau may not be as impaired by his Vietnam experiences as his veterans adjudication suggests.”
Moreau has claimed to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder that stems from his service in the Vietnam War, although some have questioned whether all of his claims of military service are true.
The Vail Daily obtained Moreau’s military records from the National Personnel Records Center in December 2009 through a Freedom of Information Act request, proving some of his claims true, some of them plausible and some doubtful.
Public defenders told the court last December that evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder would be presented during the trial.
Mallory’s motion includes excerpts from the defense’s expert witnesses that state there “is no evidence to support the view that (Moreau) was psychotic or suffering such severe perceptual distortions that would leave him unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions on November 7, 2009. … Mr. Moreau may have (post-traumatic stress disorder) which may have compromised or impacted Mr. Moreau’s judgment.”
Hurlbert and Mallory plan to use the experts’ sources of information, to which Moorhead granted them access to Wednesday, to verify the diagnoses with a prosecution expert in the coming weeks and months.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.