COLORADO SPRINGS — Letecia Stauch, the El Paso County woman accused of murdering her 11-year-old stepson Gannon Stauch, waived her right to counsel Friday morning and will represent herself in her first-degree murder case.
Following lengthy conversation, the court found she has waived her right to counsel and that she made a "knowing, voluntary, and intelligent decision to do so."
District Attorney Michael Allen said following the decision that she has an uphill battle as it would be tough for her to get up to speed and prepare to represent herself, but this does not impact prosecution.
“We always have the burden of proof, I think we’ve talked about that in the past that we’re always going to make sure that we satisfy that burden of proof regardless of somebody has an attorney or they’re representing themselves," he said.
According to News5's Colette Bordelon, who viewed the hearing virtually, Stauch said she doesn't believe experts in the legal system hold much value in this case. She also said her current attorneys are not at fault, but she blames the jail for not allowing them to meet as she should be.
"I think I could do it on my own, sir. It's a constitutional right I have," Stauch, who was in person during this advisement, told the judge. Gannon Stauch's father, Al Stauch, was also present in court for this advisement.
Judge Gregory Werner questioned Stauch's capability to introduce evidence to which she replied she does not know how to introduce evidence, but she does not believe an attorney with experience would be helpful because she has "23 hours a day to work." She also compared the case to poker and believes she has an "ace in the hole," insinuating she is innocent.
Judge: "There's a fundamental risk that you may not understand the rules of evidence and procedure as well as someone with experience... and that could very well work to your detriment. Do you understand that?" Stauch: "Yes sir." @KOAA— Colette Bordelon (@ColetteBordelon) February 26, 2021
She also requested the current preliminary hearings scheduled for March to be waived because she knows "what evidence there is, I can't say certain things 'cause it's on recording." District Attorney Michael Allen stepped in and said there are roughly 30,000 pages of discovery in the case, stemming from the investigation extended from El Paso County to Florida to South Carolina.
"This is an extensive case. It would be very difficult for somebody just getting discovery to get up to speed," he said to which Stauch responded she is still entitled to the evidence.
Stauch said she is "so confident" in two pieces of evidence "that no science can discredit, and it will clear my name." The judge warned her if she changed her mind close to trial they could find it's a delay tactic and she could be stuck with her decision, which she said she understood.
Her attorneys discussed in private with Stauch about waiving the hearings, coming up short with an answer and stating, "I shudder to think how someone who's not trained in the law would've handled something like that." The judge reiterated these hearings are not "ordinary preliminary hearings" and that he thinks a waiver of those hearings is "an admission that the proof is evident and the presumption is great."
Ultimately, the judge was unable to provide an answer to Stauch regarding those hearings, but she reiterated to him that she still wanted to represent herself. A status conference has been scheduled for next Friday, March 5,, to find out what evidence has been given and reviewed, and then the judge will make the call on whether they can proceed to the proof evident, presumption great hearings scheduled for March 12 and 13.
Last Friday, Stauch had a closed-door conflict hearing that led to the scheduling of an Arguello advisement, typically used when a defendant plans on representing themselves. She has been ruled mentally competent to stand trial, twice.
The conflict hearing was conducted virtually, and Stauch appeared from a cell at the El Paso County Jail, wearing an orange jumpsuit and face mask. Gannon's father, Al Stauch, was also on the call.
The public was only present for the first few minutes of this hearing before it went into a private session for around 30 minutes. Prosecutors were also not on the call during the conflict hearing. It was a discussion between the defendant, defense attorneys, and the court.
Then, when it was opened back up to the public, Judge William Bain said he was asked to address whether or not there is a conflict in this case. He said he will not make that decision and will send the matter back to Judge Gregory Werner, who typically presides over the Stauch case.
Local attorney Stephen Longo said an Arguello advisement stems from a 6th Amendment case, regarding the waiver of counsel. An Arguello advisement is to ensure a defendant's waiver of counsel (whether permanent or temporary) is done knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. Mainly, Longo said they are used as a safeguard against an appeal if a defendant proceeds without counsel. It is not a competency issue.
Lead Prosecutor and District Attorney for the 4th Judicial District, Michael Allen, spoke with News5 following the conflict hearing. Since prosecutors were not present for the closed-door process of the conflict hearing, he could not comment on anything discussed during that time.
However, Allen did tell us what to expect in an Arguello advisement. While fairly rare, he said they happen often enough that his team knows how to handle it. The judge will ask specific questions of a defendant to make sure they understand what they are getting themselves into, by deciding to waive their right to counsel. "Any case, it's tough to represent yourself, especially a big case like this with lots of discovery. So, you'll hear questions from the judge, in all likelihood, along those same lines, as to making sure that the defendant knows what she's doing and is prepared to take that task on herself," said Allen during a Zoom call.
When Allen heard Judge Bain say the next court setting would be an Arguello advisement, it sounded to him like Stauch "is intending to represent herself. But I haven't heard that specifically from her, and she didn't say that in the courtroom, obviously when we were all present. It's just based off of the court making that representation that he would set it back to Judge Werner for an Arguello advisement, which is typically what that would be for," said Allen.
Allen did say any defendant, if they have the money to do so, can hire another attorney if they would like. However, he cannot comment on Stauch's personal financial situation.
He also added it would be foolish to speculate on if this Arguello advisement means Stauch has fired her current defense team. A defendant can go through an Arguello advisement, and decide to retain counsel. "And that's why I say it's a little reckless to just speculate that there's some sort of a split, and it's absolutely going to be new defense counsel or something like that. We don't know that yet, and we shouldn't go down that speculation road too much," said Allen.
Generally speaking, Allen said an Arguello advisement can throw off the timeline of a case, but he cannot say if it will affect Stauch's case.
Allen said they are still working toward their preliminary hearing, scheduled on March 11, 12, and 15. March 15 is used as a sort of spillover date, if they do not finish everything on March 11 and 12.
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