The Colorado Court of Appeals is once again set to rule on a Boulder County triple homicide verdict after a Boulder District Judge did not reverse her ruling granting the defendant a new trial.
Garrett Coughlin, 27, was convicted in 2019 on three counts of felony first-degree murder and one count of aggravated robbery in the shooting deaths of Wallace White, Kelly Sloat-White and Emory Fraker on April 13, 2017, at the Whites’ home in Coal Creek Canyon.
But Boulder District Judge Judith LaBuda overturned the conviction after Coughlin’s attorneys said two jurors lied on their questionnaires.
The Boulder County District Attorney’s Office appealed the ruling with the Colorado Court of Appeals, but also filed a motion in Boulder District Court asking LaBuda to reverse her ruling, claiming defense attorneys knew about the jurors’ dishonesty prior to trial.
The Colorado Court of Appeals said it would stay the proceedings in appeals court and send the case back to district court until LaBuda ruled on the motion by prosecutors.
In the motion, prosecutors said they submitted a records request in the Colorado state Courts Data Access system, which showed defense attorney Mary Claire Mulligan searched the names of both jurors on June 1, two days before jury selection.
Prosecutors said information about the jurors’ criminal history and their children’s relevant to the later appeal would have been called up by the search. But in a response, Mulligan wrote that while she did see the cases in question come up, that alone was not enough to warrant concern at the time.
LaBuda ultimately denied the prosecution’s motion to overturn the ruling, saying that while she “does not condone the fact that Defendant did not previously disclose to the Court that it was aware of (juror’s) lack of candor as it related to charges against her minor son during the trial,” there was other information discovered about the witness after the trial that factored into the decision and was not known by the defense.
“The Court is sensitive to the People’s assertion that granting a new trial for defendant could set precedent for the defense to withhold any indication that a juror should be disqualified and then use it as a tool after trial,” LaBuda wrote. “However, here, defendant did not withhold the data the Court primarily relied upon in its ruling.”
Added LaBuda, “It was the culmination of (the juror’s) pattern of deceit throughout the jury selection process and post-trial proceedings that led this Court to conclude that her series of lies and deceit impaired her ability to decide the underlying case against defendant based solely on the evidence. It was (the juror’s) willingness to go to extreme lengths to hide her past that led the Court to determine it could not rely on her compliance with an oath to seek the truth.”
With LaBuda’s ruling, prosecutors in November refiled their appeal with the state. Boulder Deputy District Attorney Adam Kendall made many of the same arguments prosecutors did in their motion to LaBuda.
“Coughlin’s choice to back-pocket critical information about jurors’ lack of candor, allow the trial to continue, and only reveal the information to get a new trial after he lost is unacceptable,” Kendall wrote. “Allowing defendants like Coughlin a new trial under these circumstances would condone such behavior, result in a significant drain on judicial resources, and wreak havoc on the judicial system. Coughlin waived any right to challenge (the juror) during his trial, and he should not receive the benefit of a new trial now.”
Kendall wrote that by not questioning the juror about what they knew at the time, defense was waiving their rights to then ask for a new trial because of that juror.
“In Colorado, if counsel fails to object to a juror’s service by challenging a juror’s service, or fails to adequately examine a juror during the jury selection process to determine if they fall within a challengeable category, counsel has waived the right to challenge that juror for cause,” Kendall wrote, later adding, “Coughlin took no steps to address the non-disclosure of information by (the juror) before the conclusion of jury selection and the seating of the jury on June 4. Moreover, since there were several alternate jurors sworn in by the trial court, Coughlin could have addressed (the juror’s) non-disclosure at any point over the next two weeks of trial and cured the issue. He did not. This was likely a strategic decision — keeping a juror whose family member had previously been accused of a crime could be beneficial to a defendant in a criminal jury trial.”
Coughlin, who had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole before his conviction was overturned, remains in custody at Crowley County Correctional Facility in Olney Springs.
He does not have any scheduled court appearances in Boulder County at this time.