Saturday, December 22, 2007
Steamboat Springs Murder suspect Luz Cisneros will stand trial next year for the death of her infant child, after a judge determined Friday that the District Attorney's Office has enough evidence to proceed with a court hearing.
Cisneros stands accused of first-degree murder for the Sept. 6 death of her 1-year-old daughter, Brianna Simon, at their Walton Pond apartment. Cisneros could face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.
Cisneros was denied bail by Judge James Garrecht at Friday's hearing. Cisneros has yet to enter a plea and has remained in custody since her arrest in September, primarily at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo.
At Cisneros' last court appearance Dec. 5, Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James said the District Attorney's Office will not be offering a plea bargain, spurring the case to proceed toward its impending trial.
The prosecution and the defense summarized witness testimony Friday, and Garrecht determined there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.
The prosecution argued that Cisneros had the "long-standing intent and deliberation" to kill her child. Cisneros used Brianna as a "pawn" in arguments with the baby's father, St. James said.
Cisneros' public defenders argued that the defendant's state of mind at the time of Brianna's death precluded her from committing first-degree murder, which requires Cisneros to have acted with intent and after deliberation.
"There are significant questions about Ms. Cisneros' mental state," public defender Sheryl Uhlmann said. "The overwhelming evidence is that this is a woman who, under normal circumstances, loved and took tremendous care of her child."
Hospital nurses and law enforcement officers who interacted with Cisneros on Sept. 6 will testify that she was making suicidal statements, Uhlmann said.
Defense witness testimony will also show that after Brianna's death, Cisneros was showing signs of mental illness, behaving strangely and saying things "that weren't in touch with reality," including acting like her baby was still alive, public defender Emily Wickham said.
After weighing both sides, Garrecht sided with the prosecution, agreeing that the alleged crime did appear to be premeditated. But Garrecht said he expects a full investigation of Cisneros' mental health before the trial begins in district court.
Cisneros was arrested the same day as the alleged murder. According to sworn police affidavits, Cisneros' longtime boyfriend and Brianna's father, Isaias Simon, called 911 the morning of Sept. 6 to report that Cisneros was holding a knife to their daughter's neck and stomach. Cisneros told Simon she broke his cell phone and hid her phone, prompting him to leave their apartment to go to a neighbor's home to call for help, according to the affidavits.
Simon told police the door to their apartment was locked when he returned. Officers who responded to the 911 call forced their way inside the apartment, and according to the affidavits, saw Cisneros come down the stairs holding her injured daughter in her arms. One of the officers said he saw a laceration on the neck of both Cisneros and her daughter.
Brianna was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. A preliminary autopsy report indicated the 1-year-old died from a "total transection of the left jugular vein" due to an "incised wound to the neck."
Cisneros was taken to the hospital to be treated for her injuries, and was booked into Routt County Jail later that night on charges of first-degree murder.
Cisneros is due to appear for arraignment at 4 p.m. March 13. No trial date has been set.