DENVER – Prosecutors in the 18th Judicial District have filed an appeal with the Colorado Court of Appeals asking the panel to overturn a Douglas County District Court judge’s sanctions on the office that were imposed after a second mistrial in the case of a truck driver accused of hitting and killing a Colorado State Patrol trooper in 2016.
18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler and Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacob Edson filed the appeal late Monday afternoon with the state Court of Appeals.
They are asking the panel to overturn District Judge Shay Whitaker’s sanctions imposed last week against the prosecutors’ office, which dropped a felony charge of criminally negligent homicide against Noe Gamez-Ruiz.
The district attorney’s office was sanctioned for a second time after a second mistrial in the case against Gamez-Ruiz, who is accused of striking and killing CSP Trooper Cody Donahue with his truck in November 2016.
After the sanctions against the prosecutors' office, Gamez-Ruiz faces only two traffic infractions in the case: careless driving resulting in death and careless passing of an emergency vehicle resulting in death.
The first mistrial stemmed from a discovery violation involving an expert opinion prosecutors had not disclosed, and the second also involved a discovery violation.
After the first mistrial was declared in September of last year, the judge lowered that sentencing to 12 to 18 months in prison.
The second mistrial was declared in the case on Feb. 15, when it was revealed by the defendant's attorney that a police officer who test drove the vehicle following the November 26, 2016 crash testified that Gamez-Ruiz’s vehicle pulled to the right during the reenactment.
Brauchler called the second mistrial a “soul sucking outcome” but his office did not comment on the second round of sanctions until Monday’s filing. But Noe-Gamez-Ruiz’s attorney, Harvey Steinberg, said the court had “no choice” but to grant a mistrial and that he felt like the proceedings against his client had been “unfair.”
In the appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals, the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office says the following two issues would be raised on appeal:
First: “Whether the trial court acted manifestly arbitrary, unreasonable, or unfair when it found a continued pattern of discovery violations by the prosecution?”
And second: “Whether the trial court acted manifestly arbitrary, unreasonable, or unfair when it dismissed the felony county, Criminally Negligent Homicide, as a sanction for a finding of a discovery violation?”
Steinberg said he believed that the Court of Appeals would affirm the district judge’s ruling.
“The judge’s ruling was obviously thoroughly-researched and well-thought out,” Steinberg told Denver7. “I would anticipate and expect that the Court of Appeals will affirm the ruling which will provide good law for defendants who are charged with crimes, and the DA’s failed to discharge their responsibilities.