Security tight as escape case heads to trial

Shane Johnson

In a courtroom closed to the general public, District Judge Richard Gurley on Friday ordered a Clifton man accused of escape from the Mesa County Jail to stand trial next week.

This, after a last-minute defense bid to sink the case.

Jury selection starts Monday in the trial of 42-year-old Shane Johnson, who was extradited from Mexico late last year and pleaded not guilty to charges that he escaped from the jail in September 2008.

Under court order, Johnson’s hearing Friday was closed, with only the judge, Johnson, attorneys and a few Mesa County Sheriff’s Department deputies inside the courtroom. Onlookers took in the proceeding from a closed-circuit television in a vacant courtroom.

Johnson’s trial will be open to the public.

The high security in Johnson’s case comes as his attorney Friday argued a motion to dismiss the escape case. Johnson in December was ordered to serve 105 years in prison relating to a spree of burglaries and thefts in the summer of 2006.

Steve Colvin, Johnson’s public defender, argued in a motion that Johnson suffered “prejudice” after state prison officials in January failed to notify Johnson that the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department had placed a detainer on him, a legal notice that Johnson would be returned to Mesa County for trial in June.

Johnson claimed he didn’t receive notice until April 1. The detainer was filed in early January.

State law mandates state prison officials “promptly notify” inmates of a detainer, and it lays out possible penalties, including dismissal of criminal charges for violating the requirement, attorneys said.

As a result of the detainer, Colvin’s motion argues Johnson was placed under “administrative segregation” by the Colorado Department of Corrections. The security status is considered the most restrictive in the state’s prison system. Colvin told the judge Friday the restrictions have made it next to impossible to communicate privately with his client in preparation for trial.

Gurley ruled the defense motion will be considered only after Johnson’s trial, which is scheduled through June 24.


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