A new trial for Ronald Morosko, a muzzleloader hunter charged with fatally shooting bowhunter Gregory Gabrisch, will begin Jan. 17 at the Montezuma County Courthouse.
The first trial in Dolores County Court in Dove Creek was declared a mistrial Oct. 31 after a COVID-19 outbreak in the courtroom infected three jurors, two courtroom staff and an attorney.
The defense called for a mistrial, which was granted by Chief District Judge Todd Plewe on the morning of the sixth day of the trial. The prosecution had rested its case, and the defense was on its second day of presenting its case.
22nd District Attorney Matt Margeson decided to retry the case with the same charges. The trial is scheduled for seven days. Jury selection is Jan. 17, with opening statements likely to begin Jan. 18.
Morosko, of Pennsylvania, faces charges of criminally negligent homicide, a Class 5 felony, and hunting in a careless manner, a misdemeanor, in the death of Gabrisch, who is from Texas. He has pleaded not guilty.
“Nothing has changed as far as charges go. It’s a redo,” Margeson said Thursday.
Prosecutors are Margeson and Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Reed. Morosko is represented by defense attorneys Kenneth Pace and Heather Little. Plewe will oversee the trial.
Plewe earlier granted a motion by defense requesting a change of venue to Montezuma County. Margeson objected to the venue change, preferring it be tried in the county where the incident happened.
The fatal shooting happened in Dolores County near the Kilpacker Trail on the San Juan National Forest on Sept. 17, 2021, north of Rico.
Morosko shot Gabrisch as the two hunted elk in the area separately. The muzzleloading season and bowhunting season overlap in Colorado for eight days in September.
In Colorado, conviction of criminally negligent homicide can be punished by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. A conviction for hunting in a careless manner carries a fine of not more than $1,000 and/or jail time of up to one year.
A 12-person jury with one alternate will be chosen from a pool of about 300 jurors from Montezuma County expected to be summoned for two days.
The 22nd Judicial District does not have administrative orders in place regarding COVID protocols, said Eric Hogue, court executive for the Sixth and 22nd Judicial Districts.
On April 3, then-Chief Judge Douglas Walker vacated all restrictions ordered during the COVID-19 crisis.
The order states:
“There will no longer be jurors automatically excused because of their concerns concerning COVID, unless they have specific medical reasons that properly release them from jury duty. The Clerks will not meet all potential jurors before they enter the Court facilities of the 22nd Judicial District and ask health screening questions and court security will not screen for health issues.”
Any person who wishes to wear a face covering, for any health reason may continue to do so.
The order states that the court expects that all persons will practice safe hygiene and not attempt to enter the court facilities if they are obviously ill. Any person who is ill (beyond a common cold) should contact their attorney or the clerk’s office to determine if the court will excuse their appearance or if there are further steps needed if a hearing or proceeding is to be rescheduled. Each judge may allow virtual appearances as they deem appropriate in their individual courtrooms.
The Journal filed for expanded media coverage for the trial to record audio, take video and still photography, but was granted limited still photography with restrictions.
The first trial in Dove Creek was broadcast live via WebEx Events and was made available to the wider public over the internet.
In the order released Thursday, Plewe said the trial would not arrange to stream audio or video of the trial via WebEx Events.
“At the first trial of this matter in Dolores County, a Webex stream was appropriate, because of the space limitations at the Dolores County Courthouse,” Plewe wrote in his order. “This was the primary reason for streaming audio and video of the proceedings. This trial will take place in the largest courtroom in the Montezuma County Courthouse. The Montezuma County Courthouse can easily accommodate the media and interested persons.”
The Journal was granted use of the attorney-client room at the rear of the courtroom to capture still photographs during the trial after jury selection is complete.
Photographs may only be captured through the mirrored glass in the attorney-client room.
No photographs are allowed of summoned or selected jurors, and no photographs are allowed to capture gallery members in the courtroom. Photos can be captured of attorneys in the case, people testifying and the judge.
No electronic devices may be brought into the courtroom, including computers, cameras, cellphones, video phones, tape recorders, iPads or other recording or transmitting devices.
Media interview are not allowed within the courthouse, and jurors may not be approached or contacted until they have been discharged from jury service.
The media and members of the public may capture images of persons as they come and go from the courthouse, except people known or identified to be summoned or selected jurors may not have their images captured.
If an image of a person is captured before that person is determined to be a summoned or selected juror, his or her image shall not be displayed, distributed, or identified as a juror.
No person shall wear or bring anything into the courthouse that expresses support for either the prosecution or defense. Included in this prohibition are any signs, photographs, T-shirts, or buttons that reference the case, the defendant, or the alleged victim in any way.