BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – A federal judge on Tuesday denied a request from the defendant in a double-murder case on Montana’s Crow Indian Reservation to appoint a Colorado lawyer who specializes in the death penalty.
Jesus Deniz Mendoza, 18, of Worland, Wyoming, is represented by three attorneys from the federal defenders’ office. U.S. District Judge Susan Watters said the defense failed to show the need for another attorney.
Mendoza has pleaded not guilty to the July 29 killings of Jason and Tana Shane.
Authorities say the Shanes were shot after stopping to help Mendoza along a rural road near Pryor, Montana. Their daughter, 26-year-old Jorah Shane, was wounded while trying to run away.
Mendoza, who has pleaded not guilty, could face the death penalty if convicted. His attorneys had asked Watters to appoint Donald Knight of Littleton, Colorado, to assist in the case.
Knight has represented defendants in capital cases in California, Colorado and Oklahoma and participated in several terrorism-related cases.
Prosecutors have asked Watters for a court order for the release of Mendoza’s substance abuse treatment records.
“The potential role that use and/or abuse of substances played in the offenses is of paramount importance to a determination about the appropriate punishment to seek in this case,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lori Harper Suek wrote in the request. The records sought cover past treatment, not ongoing treatment, she said.
The requested order for the release of his substance abuse records would apply to the Highlands Behavioral Health Center in Denver; the Cowboy Youth Challenge in Guernsey, Wyoming; and three entities in Worland: the Wyoming Boys School, Cloud Peak Counseling Center and Washakie County School District No. 1.
Prosecutors said they tried to no avail to obtain the records directly from the agencies. Mendoza’s attorneys have not taken a position on the request, according to court filings.
Mendoza, of Worland, Wyoming, faces 12 criminal charges, including two counts of first-degree murder, carjacking, attempted murder and multiple assault and firearms charges, according to court records.
Watters in August ordered defense attorneys to report on the results of a mental health evaluation for Mendoza by Oct. 5. No report has been filed with the court, and defense attorneys said earlier this month that Mendoza had not yet undergone the evaluation.
– By MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press
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