ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — An Adams County judge has declared a mistrial in the case of Dreion Dearing, a now-24-year-old accused of killing an Adams County deputy in 2018. This is due, in part, to the effects of the novel coronavirus, the judge said.
Adams County District Court Judge Mark Warner issued the ruling Monday afternoon. In the document, he said that the "court finds that the events resulting from COVID-19 and the People’s decision not to pursue the death penalty at this point in the trial warrants a mistrial."
In the ruling, Warner said bringing prospective jurors into court under the current conditions with the pandemic risks the health and safety of all involved in the trial. It also complicates the process of bringing out-of-state witnesses to the court. Prospective jurors who are considered at risk had already reached out the court requesting a postponement or dismissal because of their fears surrounding the novel coronavirus, he said.
"Some of the individuals broke down and cried while filling out the juror questionnaire or called in later crying about the possibility of having to return because of their fear of COVID-19," the ruling read.
Warner added that the court has no "reasonable method" to protect those prospective jurors.
Others contacted the court concerned because they have either lost their income, are home-schooling their child or children, or are a single-parent home — or a mixture of those — and being a juror would create undue hardship for them, the ruling read.
The trial had already been postponed due to COVID-19.
Dearing, who is now 24 but was 22 at the time of the crime, is accused of shooting and killing Adams County Sheriff's Office Deputy Heath McDonald Gumm, 31, on Jan. 24, 2018 during an altercation in Thornton. Gumm and two other deputies had responded to the area on a call about an assault in progress.
Dearing was charged with four varying counts of first-degree murder (first-degree murder of a peace officer after deliberation; first-degree felony murder of a peace officer; first-degree murder after deliberation; first-degree felony murder), one count of first-degree burglary, possession of a weapon by a previous offender and one count of third-degree assault, a misdemeanor.
He won't face the death penalty if he is convicted of the crime. Warner granted a petition from prosecutors in early April 2020 to drop the death penalty as a possible punishment. District Attorney Dave Young said it was pointless to pursue it since Gov. Jared Polis has shown he will commute death sentences to life sentences.