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Blood evidence in dispute in alleged rape case

Aspen Daily News
BYLINE: Troy Hooper, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer,
Link to Article

Aspen, CO

The defense and prosecution in the alleged Centennial rape case went at it again Wednesday as the two sides continue to battle over what is admissible at trial.

The public defender duo of Steve McCrohan and Tina Fang have had some success with the litany of motions they have filed so far, namely persuading the judge to suppress all the statements their client, Emanuel Gonzalez-Loujun, 22, of Carbondale, made to police after he was arrested for allegedly raping a young woman outside of her Centennial home in January 2009. Judge James Boyd suppressed all the statements as a sanction against the district attorney’s office, which along with police, have made mistakes in the case.

The latest mistake Gonzalez-Loujun’s public defenders are trying to benefit from is the Aspen Police Department’s mishandling of the defendant’s blood samples. The department’s evidentiary custodian Michelle McClinton testified that she failed to refrigerate or freeze Gonzalez-Loujun’s blood when the Colorado Bureau of Investigation sent it back to Aspen. The blood was not properly stored for several months and was “untestable” by the time it was turned over to the public defender’s office, the attorneys said.

Aspen police officer Chris Womack, who was the lead detective on the case, testified “that was just an error on my part” when he sent the blood to CBI for a toxicology test, as it apparently should have gone to a different agency for testing.

Upon learning Womack is partially color blind, McCrohan questioned whether the detective’s condition might have affected how the blood sample was processed.

The defense is asking that the blood evidence not be admissible at trial.

Meanwhile, city attorney Jim True filed a motion to quash the defense’s subpoena seeking Aspen police officer Leon Murray’s personnel files. Holding the officer’s files, which were several inches tall (Murray has worked for the department for decades) True contended the files should remain private, at one point calling up Assistant Police Chief Linda Consuegra, who testified no one has ever complained of Murray using excessive force. Gonzalez-Loujun is accused of assaulting Murray and resisting arrest when he was apprehended in the Centennial area shortly after the alleged rape.

Judge Boyd agreed Murray’s files should remain private, although he did order the police department to keep the files ready in case they need to be examined later.

It was also revealed in the open court that the district attorney’s office had its investigator audit the Aspen Police Department’s evidentiary processes, which the public defender’s office alleges is fraught with problems, but there were “no deficiencies.”

Fang is requesting the audit be turned over to her office. She also is renewing her motion for sanctions on the district attorney’s office. She and McCrohan have been persistent critics of Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin and his conduct.

At the end of yesterday’s hearing, Fang accused Mordkin of improperly advising Pitkin County Jail Administrator Don Bird about the case’s initial keeping of records.

The public defender ran out of time to elaborate but her complaint about Mordkin — along with the admissibility of the blood and other outstanding issues — will be further discussed Feb. 25. Fang also claims an Aspen police officer involved in the case has a criminal record and she is seeking information on the unnamed officer’s history.

Gonzalez-Loujun’s trial was originally scheduled to be over by now. But there have been unremitting delays that have now pushed the trial’s start back to March 29.

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