CASTLE ROCK - In a decision that puts prosecutors in a difficult situation, a Douglas County District Court judge has decided not to delay the start of a death penalty trial set to go into opening statements as early as Tuesday.
Prosecutors with the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office had sought a delay in the Edward Montour trial if certain defense witnesses were still allowed to testify on Montour's behalf. Friday, in deciding that he would allow the testimony of the defense experts, Judge Richard Caschette said the trial would proceed as scheduled.
Edward Montour has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the 2002 murder of Limon Correctional Facility officer Eric Autobee. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Jury selection started early last month in Douglas County.
The trial has already been marked by the continual presence of Autobee's father who has publicly criticized prosecutors for continuing to see the death penalty. There are also complications surrounding the 1997 death of Montour's 11-week-old daughter Taylor. In 1998, a jury found Montour guilty of first-degree murder in her death. But this week, the El Paso County Coroner's office changed the cause of Taylor's death from "homicide" to "undetermined."
Montour's defense now believes the girl died not as a result of abuse but from a rare form of metabolic bone disease. The experts prosecutors were seeking to strike will testify they believe Taylor might have died as a result of having very brittle bones.
While Montour has already admitted to killing Autobee, the murder of Taylor Montour was going to play a critical role as an aggravator during a possible death-penalty phase of the trial. Prosecutors had accused the defense of bringing in the "brittle-bone defense" late in the game, and they said they believed they could not get their own outside experts hired in time to see if the defense conclusions are in fact true.
Now it appears as if they will have to go to trial on a case that will present serious questions about the legitimacy of the conviction that put Montour in prison in the first place.