District Attorney Russell Wasley and his staff were ordered by a judge Thursday to take a class in the proper handling of evidence after a discovery violation in a local infant death case earlier this year.
Montezuma County Judge JenniLynn Lawrence issued the order Thursday in the case of 18-year-old Dylan Kuhn, who waved his preliminary hearing Friday. The hearing was postponed in February after a discovery violation was found.
“The discovery violation is the sole cause of the two-month delay in holding a preliminary hearing in this case,” Lawrence wrote in her order. “Accordingly, the court will fashion a sanction with the goal of avoiding any further such delays as a result of the District Attorney’s admitted erroneous understanding of constitutionally mandated and Rule 16 discovery obligations.”
Under the ruling, Wasley, his deputies and staff who handle discovery must take a minimum 8 hours of continuing legal education, to be provided by someone outside of the local office.
Discovery is the legal process of exchanging evidence between parties.
The judge made the ruling in response to a defense motion to dismiss the case, saying dismissal was too severe a sanction and opted instead for the local DA and staff to undergo training within 60 days.
Wasley came under fire in a February hearing for not providing evidence to the defense.
Representing Kuhn, attorney John Moran had said he received 78 pages of evidence that day, which he did not have time to review before the hearing. He said the evidence could be exculpatory, or indicative of Kuhn’s innocence.
District Attorney Wasley argued those particular documents were not requested by the defense until 7:30 p.m. the prior evening. Further, Wasley said the documents are from a four-year-old case pertaining to a potential witness, and are not directly connected to Kuhn’s case.
When questioned by the judge, Wasley admitted he did not have time himself to review the documents, and could not say for sure if it is exculpatory.
Lawrence had declared it a discovery violation.
The DA’s office has been hit with multiple discovery violations during the Wasley administration and defense attorneys have frequently said they do not receive evidence from the office in time for proceedings.
Moran argued that due to ongoing incidents, the case should be dismissed.
Wasley argued the defense has known about the documents since November and maintained there was no discovery violation.
Kuhn is charged with child abuse causing death for an incident last year.
According to court documents, police said Kuhn said he becomes frustrated when the baby cries and he doesn’t know why. He allegedly admitted to slamming his infant daughter down on a bed in the early hours of Nov. 1.
The infant girl was later found dead.
The alleged admission came after a medical doctor ruled the death appeared to be caused by the infant being slammed against a soft, but unyielding surface.
He had first told investigators he thought the infant had died from strangulation after falling off the bed with a blanket wrapped around her throat.
The defendant remains out of custody. His case has been bound over to district court, where his next hearing is scheduled for May 22.
Reach Reid Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org