Dist. Atty. Terrance Farina charged this morning that the public defender’s office has leaked information about a witness in the Kenneth H. Botham Jr. murder case to a Denver newspaper reporter.
The information was the basis of a portion of a story which appeared in the Monday Denver Post.
Farina told Dist. Judge William Ela and the two public defenders representing Botham that he hadn’t read the story, but had been told it was an interview with Truman Haley, former sheriff’s deputy.
Farina said he had been told that the story had Haley admitting an affair with one of the four victims in the case and destroying her diary.
“That information was developed by the prosecution and turned over to the defense. We are not making any effort to keep it from the jury (when the case begins). I don’t know how it got out. I am looking into it further,” Farina said heatedly.
The district attorney said that “leaking of evidence while we are trying to pick a jury has to be flat stopped.”
State Dep. Public Defender Lee Foreman said he had read the article.
“I am unaware…of any leak. I make the representation to the court in total good faith,” Foreman said.
Mesa County Public Defender Edward Lipton also denied leaking any information. He said he had been asked about Haley by the Post reporter but added: “To my recollection, I made no comment.”
Farina said the evidence had been uncovered early in the case, and said he objected to its appearing in the Denver newspaper “as a kind of revelation, ‘way after we uncovered it.”
Judge Ela told Farina and Foreman he would issue an order for any witnesses on either side to refrain from granting interviews, if either the district attorney or the public defender requests it. There are roughly 100 witnesses on the list for both sides.
Foreman, denying that his office had been responsible for the leak, said he felt there had been no direct attempt to influence public opinion by the district attorney’s office.
“We’ve tried to adhere to the same kind of standard,” Foreman said.
During this morning’s session, attempts continued to put together the first 14-member panel of the jury which will try Botham on four counts of first degree murder. He is accused of causing the deaths of his wife, Patricia, and her neighbors, Mrs. Linda Miracle, and children, Troy and Chad.
The two women and two children disappeared on Aug. 23, 1975, and their bodies were later found in the Gunnison River.
By shortly before noon today, 26 persons had been questioned in chambers by the judge and attorneys, and a 27th person was being interrogated.
Of those, 13 had been accepted tentatively, and 13 had been excused.
The judge is seeking to put together a 14-member panel, including 12 jurors and two alternates. Those 14 persons will have been passed tentatively on the issues of pretrial publicity and the death penalty, but are still subject to challenge for cause on several other questions.
Many of the 13 persons who had been tentatively approved for the panel by noon today had been challenged by the public defender. But Judge Ela overrode those objections and seated those jurors.
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