POR: Steve Laiche March 15, 2009
“I like to think that I’m gregarious.”
You can’t miss Steve Laiche.
As soon as the veteran defense attorney walks into a room, the charm flows by the gallon.
“I just like people,” Laiche said. “My father was like that. And I just picked it up from my father.”
However, behind the glint in his Laiche’s eye and his easygoing manner lies a deft attorney and one of Mesa County’s most passionate courtroom advocates.
Laiche has made a name for himself as a fierce advocate for his clients — however notorious — even when it means taking his arguments and cases to the Colorado Supreme Court or to courtrooms across the state.
Laiche fought so long and hard defending Lester Nortonsen, who was suspected of horrifically torturing and killing a 3-year-old boy, that he successfully had the case moved to the Front Range.
There, in Larimer County, Laiche successfully negotiated a 36-year sentence for his client.
Considering the case, Laiche said that alone was a victory.
During the high-profile attempted murder trial two years ago of Samuel Lincoln, who was suspected of taking a man out to the desert to kill him, Laiche managed to temporarily disqualify two local prosecutors from trying the case until the Colorado Supreme Court intervened.
Though Laiche ultimately lost his argument at the high court, that argument underlines exactly why the veteran attorney can seems to effortlessly flow between being the consummate charmer — replete with a Louisiana accent — and a fierce litigator.
“You do it because you enjoy it and enjoy pushing your position,” he said.
From suspect attempted murderers to sex offenders, Laiche has represented some of more notorious defendants since he moved to Mesa County in 1987.
Laiche said he ended up in Grand Junction almost by accident, interviewing for a job with Mesa County District Attorney Steve ErkenBrack while he was on a bike trip to Telluride.
At the time Laiche was working the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office but was looking for a change.
His roots as a prosecutor in Louisiana are the roots of one of Laiche’s curious distinguishing features: He also can boast that he is one of — if not the only — attorney in Grand Junction who has sent someone to death row.
If you’re one of his clients, though, don’t worry, Laiche’s experience litigating the death penalty was on the other side of the table, when he served as a prosecutor in the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office and as assistant attorney general in Louisiana.
Laiche, who switched sides, becoming a defense attorney in 1989 after more than a decade as a prosecutor — “It was just time” — said those experiences are behind him.
Indeed, these days, Laiche looks forward via his other passion in life (being a dad to his three kids aside): cycling.
Since he was a boy, growing up in the 1950s and 1960s in Hammond, La., Laiche said he always has enjoyed riding his bike alone and with his brothers.
Laiche said he and his brothers meet up at least twice a year to go ride their bikes around the country.
“I’m just real fortunate to have that family unit,” Laiche said. “We still have the passion for it.”
Now, he said, cycling is one of his best easy to wind down outside the courtroom.
“You have to bike if you have those cases,” Laiche said, adding, “It’s just a good release for me.”