Bebb-Jones lawyers challenge Beeson remarks
Attorneys for accused killer Marcus Bebb-Jones say former Ninth Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson made inappropriate comments about his case while the outcome of Beeson’s re-election bid was in question in November.
In a motion, Bebb-Jones’ public defense team accuses Beeson of making “highly prejudicial statements” about his case shortly after the Nov. 6 election.
The Republican Beeson lost by 192 votes to Democratic challenger Sherry Caloia in the race. The outcome wasn’t resolved until he conceded at the end of November rather than proceeding with a request for a recount.
Bebb-Jones is scheduled to go to trial April 1 on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Sabrina. The two owned the Melrose Hotel in Grand Junction when she disappeared in 1997. Her skull was found in 2004 on Douglas Pass.
In their motion, Bebb-Jones’ attorneys point to concerns Beeson voiced within days after the election that having to hand the case over to new attorneys unfamiliar with it could jeopardize its prosecution. In an article in the Aspen Times and Glenwood Springs Post Independent he said, “If I were to lose (the election) I fear that this woman’s family would not get the justice they deserve.”
He told The Daily Sentinel that he was “gravely concerned” about the prospect that he might no longer be in office when the case goes to trial, and it is “the one thing that gives me most cause for concern” about possibly losing the election.
“Mr. Beeson’s comments in all three newspapers violated the constitutional rights protecting a criminal defendant from prejudicial pretrial publicity,” the Bebb-Jones motion states.
Beeson couldn’t be reached for comment. Caloia said it’s her understanding that a prosecutor shouldn’t make pretrial public comments outside the courtroom on the guilt of a defendant, but she doesn’t think Beeson’s statements went that far.
Bebb-Jones’s attorneys cite Beeson’s comments in renewing their request for a gag order on prosecutors and others involved in the case’s prosecution. Judge Daniel Petre previously had rejected that request but had indicated he would revisit the question later if warranted.
They also want the prosecution to be sanctioned because of Beeson’s comments, suggesting that Petre suppress evidence related to Sabrina’s skull, or at least expert testimony related to it. An expert witness for prosecutors now believes Sabrina suffered bullet wounds to her head, although the witness didn’t draw that conclusion when she first examined the skull in 2005.
Caloia said she’s not planning on seeking a continuance in the trial to allow more preparation time. She noted that one of Beeson’s deputy attorneys involved in the case, Anne Norrdin, is working for her and remains involved with it.
Beeson had thought he had reached a plea bargain with Bebb-Jones last summer, and Sabrina’s family came to court from out of state only to hear Bebb-Jones plead not guilty. Asked whether a plea bargain might still be possible, Caloia said prosecutors are “exploring all possibilities and we do have dialogue with defense counsel.”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen but we’re certainly going to be ready to go forward (with a trial) if we need to,” she said.