A jury is expected to decide the fate of a Cortez man this week charged in connection to a Friday the 13th knife attack. The alleged victim was hospitalized after suffering a collapsed lung.
At a two-hour hearing last week, public defender Katie Whitney requested that Chief District Court Judge Doug Walker stay the trial, stating prosecutors violated a disclosure rule in regard to a two-page DNA report. The genetic report, touted as the most important piece of evidence in the case, should have been made available more than a month ago instead of last week, Whitney said.
“The district attorney didn’t even request the DNA evidence until 7 months after my client was arrested,” Whitney argued.
Robert Espinoza, 45, was arrested and charged with first-degree assault on March 13. According to police, the 30-year-old alleged victim suffered both a 6-inch laceration on his face and neck and a puncture wound on his back.
Last week, Assistant District Attorney Sean Murray confirmed that prosecutors waited until October before requesting that two Smith & Wesson knives seized in connection to the alleged stabbing incident be analyzed for DNA evidence, but only after Espinoza failed to appear for a scheduled court hearing last fall.
“I saw an opportunity to seek out the truth,” Murray advised regarding the DNA request.
Questioned by Walker, Whitney said she didn’t believe that prosecutors intentionally withheld the report, stipulating that the Colorado Bureau of Investigations only made the report available on Dec. 22. However, Whitney said her client’s constitutional rights shouldn’t be jeopardized, because prosecutors opted to delay its investigation.
“Mr. Espinoza is just asking to get a fair trial,” Whitney said, adding the disclosure rule was necessary in order to avoid a trial by ambush.
Voicing concerns about the prosecution’s delayed investigation, Walker ruled that Murray didn’t act in bad faith, ruling the DNA report could be introduced at trial.
Jury selection in the first-degree assault case was set to start Monday. The trial is expected to last thru Wednesday.
According to police, the knife attack at a residence on the 100 block of South Washington Street ensued after a dispute between two females earlier in the day.
Whitney said she intends to argue that her client acted in self-defense after he was stabbed in the shoulder.
If convicted, Espinoza faces up to 30 years in prison, according to prosecutors.