GREELEY — After an order by Weld District Court Chief Justice James Hartmann to suspend all jury trials due to rising cases of Coronavirus until the end of January, the double-murder trial of Kevin Dean Eastman which was scheduled to begin Jan. 10 was rescheduled for June 27.
A new pretrial hearing was set for 1:30 p.m. on June 9.
By the time the trial starts, it will be more than two years since he was first arrested for the brutal murders of Scott Sessions and Heather Frank in what prosecutors say appears to have been a love-triangle. Eastman remains incarcerated in the Weld County jail.
In December, Public defenders Samantha Deveraux and Ashley Morriss had asked District Court Judge Marcelo Kopcow for another continuance arguing that they have not had time to prepare because several pieces of evidence and/or witness information was not turned over by the district attorney’s office in a timely manner.
Kopcow had not yet ruled on that request, but with Hartmann’s ruling, which lasts through Jan. 28, the request became moot.
In a status hearing Monday morning, the length of the trial was also expanded from its current three weeks to four weeks, this after the two sides previously agreed to take three days for jury selection, also a result of COVID.
The court will call 100 potential jurors per day over a period of three days to find the 12 jurors and three alternates. The trial will take the month to get through because of thousands of pages of evidence, pictures and videos, as well as testimony.
In agreeing to the extension, Kopcow said he hopes everyone understands the need for taking three days to pick a jury. COVID has caused the courts to make changes to how it operates and bringing 300 people into the courthouse on one day is just not possible.
“There really is no place to put them,” Kopcow said. “I’d rather be safe than sorry.”
Eastman was formally charged on April 1, 2021, in the deaths of Sessions and Frank in February 2020. Eastman was the estranged boyfriend of Frank.
During a preliminary hearing in October 2020, prosecutors called the murder of Sessions an “ambush,” a “lie-in-wait” style murder and the subsequent murder of Frank as the need for Eastman to silence the only witness to Sessions’ murder.
Eastman was arrested on two counts of 1st Degree Murder, two counts of tampering with a deceased human body, two counts of tampering with evidence and one count of possession of a weapon by a previous offender.
Kopcow also announced he agreed to separate out the one count of possession of a weapon by a previous offender from the initial trial into its own trial, which he said Monday would take only a few hours and happen immediately following the jury’s decision on the more serious charges.
Eastman turns 50 this month and has waived his speedy trial multiple times to accommodate delays caused by maternity leaves for both public defenders, two competency hearings, a backlog of evidence issues and a host of other reasons, most recently Hartmann’s ruling.
His speedy trial initially ended on Oct. 1, 2021. It was extended to March 31, 2022, and now extends to July 10, 2022. Several other requests for additional hearings and other delays were turned down by Kopcow.
The prosecution also asked Kopcow to allow evidence the prosecution initially said it would not use if it meant not extending the trial past the original Jan. 10 start date. Kopcow agreed, saying the defense team now has the time it needs to prepare.
In the only other order of business, Kopcow set what is known as a Shreck hearing for 1 p.m. on Jan. 31 by remote testimony.
A Shreck hearing is used to determine the reliability and relevancy of expert witness testimony. It is named after Michael Shreck who was found guilty of various offenses and a previous Colorado Supreme Court ruling from 2004 arguing the reliability over certain evidence from his trial.
In Eastman’s case, defense attorneys are challenging the reliability of certain cell phone location data putting Eastman at the location where Sessions body was found. They want testimony concerning that data deemed unreliable and thrown out.
Complete Colorado has been following this case since Sessions was initially found dead in the area of Old Flowers Road and Pingree Park Road in Bellvue, northwest of Fort Collins. All past stories can be found here.
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