Disputed Blagg juror not legally blind, eye doctor testifies in motions hearing

A woman at the center of a fight over a possible retrial of convicted murderer Michael Blagg is not legally blind, a doctor testified Monday.

Dr. Allen Grey, an ophthalmologist now caring for former Blagg juror Marilyn Charlesworth, testified he wouldn’t expect radical improvement in her vision from the time Blagg went to trial in March 2004 to when Grey examined her in April 2008.

Charlesworth has a prosthetic left eye and a degenerative, hereditary condition in her right eye that restricts her peripheral vision, according to the doctor’s testimony.

“Could she have less peripheral vision in 2003 than she had in 2008?” Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle asked the doctor.

“No,” Grey responded.

The doctor said he agreed with a prosecution assessment that Charlesworth’s vision “isn’t even close” to meeting accepted standards for legal blindness.

Grey’s testimony stands in contrast to another local optometrist, also expected to testify, who concluded in 2003 that Charlesworth was legally blind.

On cross-examination, Grey said he didn’t personally examine Charlesworth around the time of Blagg’s trial and had no knowledge of Charlesworth failing a driver’s vision test administered around the same time by the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Division of Motor Vehicles.

Gray-bearded and dressed in a red jail jumpsuit, Blagg sat in a Mesa County courtroom Monday for the first time in nearly six years as Chief District Judge David Bottger heard testimony on a motion for a new trial.

Blagg, 46, supported in the courtroom by his sister, Claire, jotted down notes on a legal pad as his public defenders called their first few witnesses in a motions hearing expected to run through Wednesday.

Blagg’s public defenders alleged in a 2005 motion that Charlesworth failed to disclose her vision problems during jury selection. According to the motion, Charlesworth told other jurors she was legally blind, and that Blagg’s attorneys obtained a journal she kept during the trial.

“I can’t see past the defendant,” she wrote in one section, adding she eventually changed seats in the jury box to accommodate her vision problems.

“She couldn’t see a lot of the stuff they presented, like the pictures, and stuff that were shown ... she couldn’t see those unless they were right in front of her,” one juror told attorneys, according to the motion.

Blagg was convicted in April 2004 of murdering his wife, Jennifer, in November 2001. He was not charged in connection with the disappearance of the couple’s daughter, Abby, 6, who is presumed dead. Blagg is serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Deputy Public Defender Brian Connors on Monday told the judge that Charlesworth was prescribed anti-anxiety drugs, but didn’t disclose the information to attorneys during jury selection when asked specifically about such drugs. Connors said it suggests Charlesworth has a history of concealing information about her health to court officials.

Jeremy Brown, Mesa State College’s director of information technologies and communications, testified he believed Charlesworth at times “wasn’t completely truthful” in her dealings with him.

Brown, who supervised Charlesworth at Mesa State, testified that the college made efforts to accommodate her eyesight problems, which Charlesworth openly shared. She worked five years at the college before resigning in 2004.

Charlesworth’s vision was at the heart of a worker’s compensation claim she lodged against Mesa State College, as well as a separate legal action against the college filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Julie Weinke, a former specialist at Community Hospital who completed an ergonomics evaluation of Charlesworth’s former work space at the college in 2003, testified she was surprised at how well Charlesworth could see.

“She was able to carry out her life very well,” Weinke said.


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