A judge, rather than a jury, is likely to decide the outcome of a Cortez woman facing a second-degree murder charge.
A two-week jury trial for Valerie Espinoza, 38, was set to start Dec. 1, but public defender Justin Bogan notified the court last week that an alternate resolution was likely to be reached. Bogan added he and prosecutors were in agreement on 99 percent of the facts in the case.
“We’re working to resolve the matter without a jury trial,” said Bogan.
District Attorney Will Furse, appearing via telephone at last week’s proceeding, agreed, adding that the parties intended to submit a joint request for a bench trial.
Wearing a yellow Montezuma County inmate uniform, Espinoza agreed before District Court Judge Todd Plewe to waive her right to a speedy trial on Friday, Oct. 24. The December trial was vacated, and a status hearing set on Nov. 20.
The charges against Espinoza resulted from the stabbing death of Charles Chaves, 62, who suffered seven stab wounds to his upper body during an early morning attack on Sept. 19, 2013. A roommate reportedly discovered Chaves on his bed “gasping for air,” and told police he recovered a bloody butcher knife from the defendant before she left the scene.
A psychologist at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo subsequently diagnosed Espinoza with a substance-induced psychotic disorder related to years of methamphetamine use. Her psychotic symptoms reportedly dissipated after prescribed anti-psychotic mood-stabilizing medications.
In July, the defense argued that Espinoza wasn’t competent to stand trial. Plewe, however, ruled the defendant didn’t have a mental disability that would prevent her from being able to rationally assist defense counsel.