Judge orders competency test in Steamboat attempted murder trial
Hearings canceled for Robert Cash, accused of shooting his wife
February 15, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Hearings scheduled this week to set the stage for Robert Cash's 10-day attempted murder trial in May have been canceled so his competency can be determined.
Cash appeared in court before District Court Judge Shelley Hill on Monday with his attorney, Routt County Public Defender Sheryl Uhlmann. Fourteenth Judicial Deputy District Attorney Rusty Prindle represented the prosecution. They discussed Uhlmann's objection to holding Thursday and Friday's motions hearing without first determining Cash's competency.
Cash is accused of shooting his wife, Rhonda, at their Steamboat Springs home in June.
On Feb. 7, Hill ruled that Robert Cash's competency had to be determined but that the motions hearing would still take place this week.
"The court has concerns about (Cash's) competency to proceed and to assist in his defense," Hill wrote. "The court has concerns, but it has insufficient information to make a preliminary finding of incompetency. Therefore, the court orders that (Cash) be transported to the Colorado State Hospital in Pueblo to be evaluated for competency as soon as a bed becomes available."
After Hill's order, Cash's attorney argued that this week's hearing should be suspended.
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If the hearings would have taken place this week and it was later determined that Cash was incompetent, parts of the motions hearings would have needed to be re-heard once Cash was competent.
"Colorado case law has long recognized that the right to counsel is meaningless unless the defendant has the capacity to confer with his attorney regarding pending charges and testimony presented," Uhlmann wrote in her objection.
She wrote that Cash has a right to be present and confer with his attorney at all critical stages of the proceedings. That includes the motions hearing, which helps decide questions such as what evidence can be presented at the trial.
Despite the cancellation of the motions hearing, Cash's jury trial still is scheduled for May 16 to 27.
Cash is charged with attempted first-degree murder and crime of violence, both felonies. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 16 to 48 years in prison.
He is accused of shooting his wife, Rhonda Cash, in the back of the neck early June 11, 2010, at their Iris Lane home, before shooting himself in the chest.
During a preliminary hearing in October in Routt County Court, prosecutors said Cash and his wife had argued the night before the shooting and Rhonda Cash kicked her husband out of the bedroom. Prosecutors said Cash shot his wife with a small-caliber handgun the next morning and then checked on her several times, asking if she was dead yet. During a hospital interview with police, she said she was paralyzed from the shot and held her breath when he was in the room. She said he covered her face with a sheet the final time he entered.
While investigating the shootings, police found a series of notes in the Cash home, including one that began with "I just lost it."
— To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or e-mail mstensland@SteamboatToday.com