Jefferson County crunched in courts

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“We’re Strapped as an office,” Jefferson County District Attorney Pete Weir informed the Board of County Commissioners last week.

In a May 7 staff briefing, Weir told the three county commissioners that the high-profile Austin Sigg murder trial — along with a spike in recent serious crime — has left his department spread thin.

He said the DA’s office was currently involved in 13 death-related cases, five of which occurred in March.

“We will get it done. All cases are important for us. But it has stretched us to the max,” Weir told the commissioners.

A gag order regarding the Sigg case kept Weir from discussing many specifics, but he did go over the case timeline.

Westminster 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway was walking to school on Oct. 5 when she disappeared. On Oct. 12 the media reported that remains of Ridgeway’s body had been found in the Leyden area.

Austin Sigg, 17 years old at that time, would later contact police and turn himself in for the crime.

He made his first court appearance on Oct. 25.

Weir said the current court schedule indicates the murder trial is set for Sept. 20 through Oct. 11, though those dates could be moved back depending on pretrial motions.

The Jeffco Board of County Commissioners previously approved the funding of two paralegals, and half of a new investigator position.

Weir said he had already hired the new staff, and sent them to work on lower level cases to free up some of his more experienced staff members to handle the Sigg case.

District 3 Commissioner Don Rosier asked the DA if the types of murder cases in Jefferson County were presenting particular challenges.

Weir said he was not asking for additional staff funding for the Sigg case at this time, but that he may have to in the future.

For comparison, Weir referenced the Brunco Eastwood case that created $90,000 in court costs to prosecute. Eastwood, who opened fire on students at Deer Creek Middle School in 2010, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, which required the DA’s office to provide psychological experts to counter his plea.

Weir said an insanity defense was a possibility in the Sigg case as well.

The state had offered some help — up to $75,000 allocated for expert and special witness expenses. Weir said he would use those funds before seeking additional county funds.

Weir, who took over the DA’s office in January, said he still calls his department the finest office in the state, but said high-profile cases, complex mental health prosecutions, and heavy caseloads all make it more important for him to retain experienced and skilled staff.

“Some of that goes back to salaries, but that’s a discussion for another day,” Weir added.