EL PASO COUNTY — The court handling the murder case of Letecia Stauch unsealed a handwritten letter from the defendant to the judge, asking that she be allowed to represent herself. Stauch is accused of killing her 11-year-old stepson Gannon, who was first reported missing in January of 2020. His body was later found in Florida.
Stauch waived her right to counsel and will represent herself in her first-degree murder case.
In the letter unsealed by the court, Stauch expresses concerns regarding privacy, her attorney's ability to gather evidence, and states "I am not mentally well." She then went on to detail a history of receiving care for mental health issues.
CLICK HERE to read the redacted letter.
Stauch wrote to Judge Gregory Werner that "I will continue to be an advocate for myself because I am not a murderer and the level that the prosecution goes through to promote a wrongful conviction is absurd."
She further states, "They have far too much invested in this wrongful incarceration to admit they were/are wrong. For these reasons and because my defense team is in cahoots with them, I am left with no other choice but to represent myself."
The letter #LeteciaStauch sent to Judge Werner has been unsealed. She writes about concerns of privacy, explains why she cannot work with her attorneys, and states "indeed I am innocent." This was the letter she sent, leading up to her decision to represent herself. @KOAA pic.twitter.com/o29aMQyJkk— Colette Bordelon (@ColetteBordelon) March 31, 2021
At the end of Stauch's most recent hearing on March 12, the letter in question was discussed. In those four pages, Stauch tells the judge her access to an attorney was hindered by the jail. The judge asked her again, if that were not the case, if she would still want to represent herself at trial. Stauch again said "I wish to represent myself, sir."
Judge Werner ordered that the letter from Stauch be unsealed, and reminded her it is a public record.
On the first page of the letter, Stauch says the doctor who conducted her second competency evaluation was "clearly an actress and friends with the D.A." Stauch also said she has dealt with "bouts of insanity," but maintains her innocence throughout the letter. "She's really placed the judge in a tough situation at this point in time," said Dennis Maes, a retired district judge, referring to the admission of mental health issues that could jeopardize her competency to represent herself.
Maes said there is always the opportunity to enter a plea of incompetent to proceed, even though in Stauch's case her competency has been evaluated twice. "She can't say, on one hand, that I don't trust anybody else in the system, and therefore I'm going to represent myself. But by the way, I don't know that I'm doing a very good job of it, either," said Maes.
Attorney Stephen Longo's initial reactions were also related to the competency issue, but he said it's already been determined by the court that Stauch is mentally fit for trial. At the time Stauch wrote this letter, her second evaluation had been completed. "Attempting to be a manipulative type thing, where she's really trying to convince the judge that she knows she's probably competent to stand trial, but wants people to think she's not competent to stand trial," said Longo.
Longo said this letter could be a small preview of Stauch's potential argument in the courtroom. She writes about wanting to preserve evidence, like GameStop footage, a Texas police officer she spoke with, or a cruise passenger list. In February, Stauch said she is "so confident" in two pieces of evidence "that no science can discredit, and it will clear my name."
Longo said her letter struck him as strange. "I don't think this letter gives me anymore confidence that she's really the right person who should be representing herself," said Longo.
There is a gag order on the Stauch case, meaning the 4th Judicial District cannot comment.
Also at Stauch's March hearing, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office had filed a motion for reconsideration after Judge Werner ordered the core of the case evidence be printed off and delivered to Letecia Stauch in jail. Stauch was present in the courtroom at the time with her advisory counsel, Josh Tolini.
There are 26,101 pages of evidence in this case. The core of the case is estimated to be around 1,800 pages.
Those with the Sheriff's Office said they were not given the opportunity to weigh in on the paper evidence being provided to Stauch in the El Paso County Jail. Commander Gillespie of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office was called to the witness stand to help explain the security at the jail.
Commander Gillespie said the classification of an inmate governs how much access they have to certain facilities. Stauch is currently segregated from all other inmates, meaning she is kept by herself and only authorized to come out at certain times for things like showers and phone calls. Whenever Stauch is out of her cell, all of the other inmates must be cleared from the hallways. Only staff can be present. Stauch had this classification before being booked at the jail.
Since Stauch has been there, Commander Gillespie said there have been reports of her possibly tampering with her cell window or talking to other inmates about an escape plan.
Stauch later said she is only aware of one report about her since being at the El Paso County Jail. She did not specify which one.
Stauch is not the only pro se inmate within the El Paso County Jail. Pro se refers to anyone representing themselves in a legal matter.
It's not uncommon for pro se inmates to have lots of paperwork, but Commander Gillespie said the Sheriff's Office does not want a mess of papers inside of a jail cell. He said it creates hiding places for things like contraband or weapons, saying deputies have located weapons among paperwork in the past.
Judge Werner says there have been cases where inmates have exceeded the amount of space in their lockbox, and it overflows into personal property. The Sheriff’s Office says if it looks like the cell is an episode of “hoarders” they would reign that back in. @KOAA— Colette Bordelon (@ColetteBordelon) March 12, 2021
The Sheriff's Office plan for Stauch's paperwork is to keep it in a secure lockbox, which will only be opened by staff to ensure chain of custody is not compromised. Stauch is currently allowed four hours a week in the law library to review her case. Those are conducted in two, two-hour sessions.
It really was only around 10 seconds. The judge got a ream of paper which has 500 pages. #Stauch would have roughly 4 times that. The judge believes it should fit in the lockbox. Whatever paper she can fit in there, the judge says #Stauch’s in the same position as other inmates.— Colette Bordelon (@ColetteBordelon) March 12, 2021
Stauch had the opportunity to question Commander Gillespie while on the stand. It was her first time questioning a witness. She only had a handful of questions, one of which was asking Commander Gillespie if he knew why she had refused to go to the law library for one of her two-hour sessions recently.
He believed it was because Stauch had nothing to review, since no evidence had yet been delivered (besides approximately 1,400 pages, which were delivered without being redacted, and had to be destroyed before Stauch could see them). Stauch says she actually denied the visit to the law library because she was told she would be kept in full restraints, meaning she would not be able to use her hands to do her work.
Commander Gillespie said they will have to make accommodations for Stauch in the law library, where she is not wearing full restraints and can adequately conduct her research. Judge Werner made sure to ask about that.
The Sheriff's Office objected to any other papers, besides the case core, being allowed inside the jail for Stauch. They requested other evidence be digitized. Plus, the District Attorney's office will need to deliver the evidence to the jail directly, to avoid calling Stauch's advisory counsel as a witness if there is a violation of chain of custody.
The Sheriff’s Office didn’t feel security concerns of the jail were adequately addressed at the last hearing, and instantly, papers began to flow into the jail from Tolini after that. The Sheriff’s Office objects to letting #Stauch have access to papers outside of the case core.— Colette Bordelon (@ColetteBordelon) March 12, 2021
Judge Werner ultimately did not change his order regarding the 1,800 pages of case core evidence being transferred to Stauch in jail. Stauch can take notes on any digital evidence.
The prosecution said they plan on calling witnesses from the FBI at the proof evident, presumption great hearing in May. Judge Werner said they would need to make a list by April 29, so that Stauch can review who the witnesses will be.
The judge’s goal: proof evident, presumption great hearing is set for May. The core of documents related to that hearing are about 1,800 pages, and #Stauch should be able to review those before the hearing. It doesn’t seem to the judge that the request is burdensome on the jail.— Colette Bordelon (@ColetteBordelon) March 12, 2021
Stauch's preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 20.
Previous coverage on the Gannon Stauch case
"It's a constitutional right I have": Letecia Stauch to represent self in first-degree murder case
Letecia Stauch's case pushed back 2 months as evidence is provided to her in jail
"Hard to imagine the day:" Gannon Stauch's father reflects after one year without son
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