(CBS4) – Colorado’s Court of Appeals ruled unanimously on Thursday that sanctions should stand against Arapahoe County prosecutors in the Noe Gamez-Ruiz case, with appeals court judges saying, “The prosecution’s pattern of neglectful discovery violations caused two mistrials in this case, resulting in repeated expenditure of state resources and unnecessary emotional hardship on the victim’s family and Gamez-Ruiz (the suspect).”
Gamez-Ruiz is the truck driver who was charged with criminally negligent homicide and two other traffic charges for hitting and killing Colorado State Trooper Cody Donahue along Interstate 25 in 2016.
The case has twice gone to trial and both times, mistrials have been declared. Judge Shay Whitaker said that prosecutors had committed three discovery violations over the course of the two trials and later decided that as a sanction, the charge of criminally negligent homicide — the only felony count — would be dismissed. Arapahoe County prosecutors appealed that ruling but on Thursday the Court of Appeals sided with the trial judge saying the charge would not be reinstated.
“We also conclude that the trial court was within its discretion to dismiss the criminally negligent homicide count as a sanction,” reads the opinion. “As the trial court noted, the prosecution’s ‘haphazard preparation’ of its case and witnesses in the first trial resulted in discovery violations that required a mistrial. Seeking to deter the prosecution from committing the same violations at the second trial, the trial court reduced the possible penalties the prosecution could seek. Clearly the prosecution did not heed that warning.”
The appeals court agreed that prosecutors’ conduct “thwarts the truth-finding process.”
Harvey Steinberg, the attorney for the truck driver, told CBS4 “The prosecutions misconduct through these proceedings has finally been memorialized in a court of appeals opinion sanctioning them appropriately.”
Vikki Migoya, a spokesperson for District Attorney George Brauchler, said “The case is open on remaining charges so we won’t say anything outside the courtroom at this time.”
Asked if there would be an appeal of the latest ruling, she said a decision had not been made yet.
Gamez-Ruiz still faces two charges: Careless driving resulting in death and careless passing of an emergency vehicle resulting in death. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.
Following the trooper’s death, the Colorado Legislature enacted the “Move Over For Cody Act” which requires drivers to move over when they see police, tow truck drivers or highway workers on the road.