A co-conspirator-turned-witness in the 2017 gang killings of two Colorado Springs teenagers testified at a co-defendant's ongoing trial Monday, despite her attorney’s concerns that she may still be infected with the coronavirus and that her presence in court could present a danger to others.
Alexandra Romero, who appeared in court Monday afternoon, was showing possible symptoms of the virus after testing positive three weeks ago, her attorney Katherine Spicer said in court, citing a conversation with her client on Friday when she “coughed the entire time.”
Spicer’s concerns have become the latest snag in the trial for Marco Garcia-Bravo over coronavirus concerns. The trial was halted for nearly two weeks earlier this month after an unspecified coronavirus exposure.
Garcia-Bravo is accused of being one of the two shooters who fatally shot 15-year-old Derek Greer and 16-year old Natalie Cano-Partida in March 2017. Romero was also charged with first-degree murder in the teens’ deaths, accused of playing a role in the plot that led to their shootings. She pleaded guilty to lesser charges including second-degree kidnapping and awaits sentencing. She is required to testify under terms of her plea deal.
In total, five people were charged with murder in the case and five were charged with related crimes. All but the defendant have pleaded guilty. Garcia-Bravo and several witnesses, including Romero, are incarcerated at the jail.
“Clearly she’s the big alternate suspect here so there is going to be a lot of talking, which means you are putting the jury at risk of picking up whatever virus she is shedding,” Spicer said of Romero. “She is coming out of an environment that is 100% contaminated.”
Fourth Judicial District David Shakes said he is continuing with the trial while following the county’s public health department’s guidance, but expressed concerns with the pace of the case, which began with jury selection in late September.
A new shield was installed around the witness stand for “extra protection,” Shakes said.
These precautions came as Chief Judge William Bain ordered all hearings to go virtual, starting Wednesday through Jan. 8, 2021. The Garcia-Bravo trial and "emergency matters" will be excluded from the order, Bain said.
Garcia-Bravo’s trial also fell under exception to Bain’s order to halt all new trials in El Paso and Teller counties until next year due to concerns over jurors’ safety amid the pandemic.
The defense raised concerns over jurors’ right to feel safe in the courtroom amid the pandemic and the possibility of the trial continuing into January, when coronavirus cases are expected to spike after the holidays. It’s unclear as to when the trial could be complete, though prosecutors said they hope to finish by Christmas.
“I find myself now on repeated occasions having to justify to the Chief Judge and to the county health authorities, why this trial is taking so long,” Shakes said.
“The concern that I get from the county health department is that every week that this case continues, there is greater and greater risk that something is going to either frustrate the conclusion of the case because of the COVID epidemic, or cause risk to participants and jurors,” Shakes said. “We are in a race against the clock.”