Mesa County District Judge James J. Carter didn’t claim today that local court officials’ constitutional rights of “equal protection” had been violated.
But Carter admitted he has been growing increasingly critical of the Colorado Supreme Court’s failure to provide those officials with a copy of their Monday ruling reversing the conviction of Kenneth H. Botham Jr. on four murder charges.
By midmorning today, the ruling still hadn’t been received, District Court Administrator Ben Peters said.
Carter, chief judge of the 21st Judicial District, Presiding Judge William Ela and District Attorney Terrance Farina have faced a barrage of questions from reporters in the past four days. Carter said the three men have been asked to answer questions from reporters throughout the state without knowing the wording of the Supreme Court decision.
According to news stories, the Supreme Court ruled that Ela should have disqualified himself because of an alleged prejudicial remark made before Botham was arrested and charged. The court ruled Ela also should have changed the location of the trial to another county. In mid-1976, a Supreme Court with a different makeup had upheld the decisions Ela made in both motions.
In reversing the decision, the Supreme Court also ruled that the testimony of some witnesses should not have been allowed.
Carter said the only knowledge all three of the court officials had had of details of the decision is what they read in newspapers or heard on radio and television.
Botham was convicted of the August 1975 first-degree murder of his wife and the second-degree murders of three neighbors. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1977 and has been in the penitentiary in Canon City since.
Carter said he called Chief Justice Paul Hodges Thursday to ask him why the local court has not yet received copies of the decision. Hodges told him the ruling should have been mailed Monday, Carter said. He promised to send it air express immediately.
Carter said he didn’t know why the press received the notification Monday when the court in which the case was tried did not.
However, reporters who cover the State Capitol in Denver said two copies of the Colorado Supreme Court’s weekly opinion are delivered each Monday to the capitol press room for publication.
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