A district court judge on Monday ruled that a married Cortez couple charged with eight felony counts, including distribution of meth and heroin, will be tried together in a three-week jury trial in March.
Lyndel Raye Clark, 65, and Sherri Lou Clark, 62, were arrested in May after a monthslong investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies. The two were allegedly involved in a scheme to distribute meth and heroin in the Four Corners area. Law enforcement conducted several controlled buys at the Clark residence on the southeast outskirts of Cortez and had several phone taps and confidential informants.
Defense attorneys on Monday argued that the two should be tried separately. Katharine Whitney, representing Lyndel Clark, said a joint trial would be “severely prejudicial” to her client. She said there is “distinct and discrete” evidence relating to each of the two co-defendants.
“This is a married couple living in a home together, and the evidence forks,” Whitney said. “I think the jury being able to separate evidence to one defendant is impossible in that situation, in a joint trial.”
Rae Randolph, representing Sherri Clark, said there is a danger that jurors would just lump Sherri Clark in with her husband. Similar to Whitney, Randolph said some jurors would assume that a married couple would know everything their spouse is up to.
“I think it is fair to say that in a marital home, one spouse doesn’t always know what the other one is doing all the time,” Randolph said.
While the defense claimed that the evidence in the case is different for each co-defendant, Deputy District Attorney Sheena Goldsborough said there is evidence that ties both Sherri and Lyndel Clark to several controlled buys at their Cortez home as well as a white BMW that took routine trips into Montezuma County from out of state to provide the Clarks with controlled substances.
“All sources have confirmed that both Lyndel and Sherri Clark are present and contribute and actively participating in those deliveries,” Goldsborough said.
After hearing the arguments, Judge Todd Plewe granted the prosecution’s motion to join the two cases but will allow the defense to raise the issue again before the trial in March. He said Colorado case law states defendants are entitled to separate trials if there is material evidence admissible to one but not all of the parties, which he said the defense has not yet proven to him.
“At this point I just can’t find that the number of defendants or complexity of the evidence is going to confuse the jury,” Plewe said.
Lyndel and Sherri Clark have pleaded not guilty to distribution of a controlled substance, conspiracy to distribute more than 225 grams of a schedule I or II substance, possession of weapon by a previous offender, importation of a controlled substance and two “special offender” felony charges. The jury trial is scheduled to begin March 4.