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Status Conference Held Ahead of Jury Trial in the April 2020 Officer-Involved Shooting Death of Zach Gifford

By Raina Lucero

July 20, 2022

Leading up to the highly anticipated jury trial former Kiowa County Sheriff’s Office deputy, Quentin Stump was in court Monday July 18 for a Status Conference. Stump has been charged with three felony charges including two counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon in the April 9, 2020 officer involved shooting death of Zach Gifford, during a routine traffic stop in Brandon, Colorado.

The status conference was used to clarify motions deadlines and to nail down the schedule for the trial. It was agreed and ordered by the judge that jurors will be called the 9th and the 10th with individual voir dire being held for the first group on the morning of the 11th and the second group on the afternoon of the same day with General voir dire taking place on the 12th. Voir dire is a preliminary examination of a witness or a juror by a judge or counsel.

Considering the court is able to stick to this schedule, opening statements would likely begin on Monday August 15 and wrap up on the 18th with the matter being sent to the jury on the 19th for deliberation.

The judge in this case, the Honorable Mark Davidson will be making his ruling on several motions that have been filed by both parties in the coming weeks that will further set the stage for how the trial will progress. The defense team has filed a particular motion asking for transcripts from the Grand Jury that convened sometime prior to charges being filed against Mr. Stump to better understand if the actions that they took.

There are four possible outcomes of convening a grand jury, (1) indictment, (2) a vote to find no true bill, or finding that there is not enough evidence to charge the defendant with violating a law (3) discharge without any action, or (4) submission of a report to the court. At this time, it is unclear to the public what the outcome was as there has been no indictment, nor has there been a report to the court made available to the public.

The jury trial in this case has been delayed 2 times before dragging the case out now, more than 2-years since the death of Mr. Gifford occurred. The trial was originally set to begin with jury selection on January 20, 2021, but the setting was vacated just days prior as the judge in the case was concerned about the current COVID cases and out of an abundance of caution had notices issued that the date was vacated for the 200+ potential jurors who received summons to appear.

Before another date was set for the trial, Stump’s defense attorney Cynthia McKedy was appointed by Governor Polis to the 4th Judicial District Court judgeship in El Paso County. Setting the trial back yet again for months to allow for a new defense team to prepare for the trial. Stump is now represented by Michael Stuzynski of Rector Stuzysnski LLC from Colorado Springs, Colorado for the officer-involved shooting case. Mr. Stuzynski was named as one of the top 40 under 40 criminal defense lawyers in the State of Colorado by the National Trial Lawyers in 2020.

In a February hearing a new jury trial date was set to begin August 9th with 2 days of jury selection and opening statements to begin once the court has seated a jury. The Kiowa County docket has been reserved until August 19 for purposes of this trial.

According to jury commissioner Elaine Lindholm 371 jury summons have been sent out to potential jurors in Kiowa County, half the summoned jurors have been instructed to appear at 8 a.m. on August 9th and the other half at 8 a.m. on August 10th at the community building located at the Kiowa County fairgrounds, where the defense and prosecution teams will begin the process of selecting jurors.

According to the Colorado Judicial Branch webpage, “Each year, the Judicial Branch receives lists of names including registered voter records, drivers’ licenses, non-driver ids, and state income tax records.” “The initial assignment is random. Before a trial begins, jurors may be required to complete questionnaires which provide information relevant to jury service.”

During jury selection those questionnaires will be used to determine who would make up a partial jury for the trial. During the two days of jury selection in this case the pool of potential jurors will be narrowed down to 12 who will serve on the jury with alternates selected in the case that one of the first 12 cannot fulfil their duty for any reason.

At the Monday status conference District Attorney Joshua Vogle objected to the submitted questionnaire from the defense because it is a great deal lengthier than that of the original questionnaire created before the previous vacated date. Judge Davidson ultimately ordered that the questionnaire that was submitted by the defense will in fact be used when selecting jurors, as it will be more useful during the general voir dire. Vogle will have until the close of day on August 5th to object to any particular questions.

With jury selection taking place and jurors being selected who likely have obligations to their employers, it is pertinent to know that employers have a duty under state law (§13-71-126, C.R.S.) to pay regular wages up to $50 per day if you are regularly employed. If you are a part-time or temporary worker and have worked for the same employer for three months or more, then you are a regular employee.

A letter to employers from Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan B. Coats states in part that, “Colorado citizens serve as jurors in courtrooms across the state to ensure the integrity of our justice system. Recognizing the importance of jury service, the state legislature has enacted statues governing the rights and obligations of both employers and employees when an employee has jury duty. Briefly summarized, these statutes require employers to pay the employee juror regular wages, up to $50 per day, for the first three days of the employee’s jury service. In addition, employers cannot threaten, coerce, or discharge an employee for reporting for jury duty as summoned.”

It is equally important to know that any person who fails to show good cause for noncompliance with a jury duty summons may be subject to a fine up to $1000, imprisonment up to three days, community service, or any combination thereof. If you are unable to attend you should call the Jury Commissioner/ Kiowa County Clerk of Courts Elaine Lindholm at 719-438-5558 for instructions.

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