Attorney for trooper seeks delay in civil suit in fatal Redlands shooting
Facing a civil lawsuit in federal court and criminal trial in Mesa County, a Colorado State Patrol trooper accused in the death of a Redlands man last year is asking a federal judge to delay the former.
State Patrol Cpl. Kirk Firko should not be forced to give up constitutional guarantees while defending himself in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Jason Kemp, who was shot and killed in his home in July 2010, Denver attorney Bernard Woessner argued in a court filing.
Trooper Ivan Lawyer, who faces identical civil and criminal proceedings, “has indicated he may join in this motion,” Woessner wrote.
“Firko is faced with the dilemma of choosing between risking loss in this civil case by invoking his Fifth Amendment rights, or risking conviction in the criminal case by waiving his right against self-incrimination and testifying in the civil case,” Woessner wrote.
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that persons cannot be forced to testify against themselves.
Woessner is asking U.S. Magistrate Kathleen Tafoya to delay proceedings in the civil case until after Firko’s criminal trial, which is scheduled to start Dec. 5 in Mesa County. Lawyer’s trial is scheduled to start Dec. 12.
“It is indisputable that the core factual basis of both the criminal case and the civil case are the same,” the motion said.
Lawyer and Firko, who are on unpaid leave from the State Patrol, have pleaded not guilty to charges including criminally negligent homicide, first-degree criminal trespass and criminal mischief in connection with Kemp’s death.
A grand jury indictment alleged Kemp was shot and killed July 20, 2010, as the troopers attempted an illegal, warrantless entry into Kemp’s home while investigating a non-injury traffic accident. Kemp was unarmed.
Tafoya has not ruled on the motion, which was filed last week. Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union, who filed suit in May on behalf of Kemp’s parents, have yet to respond.