Cynthia Hankins and Terry Hankins

Cynthia Hankins and Terry Hankins

Murder trial begins

Jury selection extends to 2nd day in Hankins case

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Cynthia Hankins

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Terry Hankins

After a day of questioning potential jurors for the Terry Hankins murder trial, Judge Michael O'Hara told the remaining crowd they would have to come back today and that they should plan on staying for most of it.

Court officials said the day started with 135 people. Although they did not know how many were left, there were enough to fill Moffat County District Court, including some extra chairs that lined the aisle.

Hankins, a man in his 70s, is charged with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse in connection with the June 2007 death of his wife, 34-year-old Cynthia Hankins.

He has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

Monday marked the first day in a planned three-week trial.

Neither attorneys for the defense nor 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office asked questions during Monday's proceedings.

Their chance to poll prospective jurors possibly will come today.

Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Snow said he thinks the prosecution will finish its questions by lunch and turn over the proceedings to the defense.

Hankins, who wore a collared shirt and slacks in the courtroom, is represented by the Public Defender's Office, which objected to his trial occurring in Moffat County, citing pervasive media coverage as reason to expect bias from local residents.

O'Hara initially agreed but reversed his decision in April.

The district court judge originally ruled in September 2008 to suppress three separate confessions Hankins made to law enforcement officers during their investigation into Cynthia's disappearance.

O'Hara said the confessions were obtained after investigators violated Hankins' Miranda rights and could not be used.

He also concluded that newspaper reports of the confessions would make it too difficult to find local jurors who could consider a case based only on the facts presented during trial and not on information they read previously.

However, the District Attorney's Office appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, which reversed O'Hara's decision in February.

With the confessions back on the table, O'Hara signed a motion in April to move the trial back to Moffat County, where the alleged crimes occurred.

Still, the case's journey to the courtroom was not over.

The trial was scheduled to begin in June, but O'Hara granted a continuance until August after attorneys discovered Hankins had a previously unknown felony conviction from 1964 for malicious mischief.

Hankins pleaded guilty in that case to using dynamite to blow up a gas station.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com.

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