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Trials in 2009 murder case pushed back until next year

The trials three suspects in a murder case from 2009 have been pushed back until next year - ten years after the death of a University of Colorado graduate student.
Andrew Graham, 23, was killed by a single gunshot wound to his back in late 2009.

CENTENNIAL – Three people accused in the 2009 shooting death of a University of Colorado graduate student won’t go to trial until at least the spring of 2019 – much to the frustration of the victim’s mother.

Allen DeShawn Ford, 26, Clarissa Jae Lockhart, 27, and Kendall Adam Austin, 26, each faces charges of first-degree murder and violations of the Colorado Organized Crimes Act in the slaying of Andrew Graham.

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On Friday, their attorneys persuaded a judge to push their trial or trials – it is possible they will face the same jury together – into next year. The decision by Arapahoe County District Judge Patricia D. Herron came despite protests from Graham’s mother, Cindi Gelston-Graham, who questioned further delays.

“I feel it is important that I be present for these hearings as a reminder that there is a victim in this case,” she said. “It is my responsibility as Andrew’s mother to be his representative. It is all I can do for him now. … Prior to the start of these legal proceedings I had thought I had made enough progress in dealing with the loss of my son to move forward in life. The emotional impact of this cannot be overstated.”

Judge Herron said that she was sensitive to Gelston-Graham’s feelings.

“I don’t want you ever in a million years – not from now ‘til the end of the earth – to think that the court or anyone else will not remember that there is a victim,” Herron said.

But over objections from prosecutor Chris Wilcox, Herron granted a motion from defense attorneys to delay proceedings until an expert on what were termed “false confessions” can testify at a three-day hearing in December. She said in making that decision that she worried that speeding up the proceedings could lead to an error that would, in the end, prolong the case for years.

The trial is expected to be scheduled in the spring of 2019, Herron said. She told the defense attorneys she was “a bit frustrated” that they told her they hadn’t yet reviewed all of the documents in the case and said that once the December hearing concludes “you will be back on the calendar for trial.”

Graham, 23, was gunned down after returning to Centennial from Boulder, where he’d gone with three friends to find an apartment for his upcoming studies at CU. He was last seen alive on security camera footage at a light-rail station at County Line Road and Interstate 25 late the night of Nov. 19, 2009.

A homeowner found Graham dead in the front yard of his home in the 8700 block of East Phillips Place.

A fourth suspect in the case, 26-year-old Joseph Jamal Martin, has already reached a plea deal with prosecutors and been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Little is known about the case – despite the fact a grand jury issued an indictment in 2016 and the four suspects were arrested in January 2017, every document in the case remains sealed.

From statements made in court, it is clear that prosecutors do not believe any of the four was the person who fired the bullet that killed Graham.

Attorney Neil Silver, who represents Lockhart, said in court Friday that the case involves allegations of “a black youth gang targeting white people.”

He also said the case was based “only” on confessions.

“There is no DNA,” he said. “There is no video. There are no witnesses.”

Contact 9NEWS reporter Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: kevin.vaughan@9news.com or 303-871-1862.