22nd Judicial District Attorney Matt Margeson delivers opening statements to a jury in Dove Creek in the case involving a muzzleloader hunter who fatally shot a bowhunter Sept. 17 in the San Juan National Forest. (WebEx screenshot)
Three jurors were affected; Morosco can be tried again in 90 days
A mistrial was declared in the Ronald Morosco manslaughter case of Dove Creek because of an outbreak of COVID-19 in a courtroom with three jurors.
District Attorney Matt Margeson said Chief Judge Todd Plewe ordered the mistrial Monday morning.
Morosco faces charges of criminally negligent homicide and reckless hunting in the shooting death of archery hunter Gregory Gabrysh. He has pleaded not guilty.
The shooting happened Sept. 17, 2021, near the Killpacker Trail in the San Juan National Forest, northeast of Dolores, while the two were hunting elk during overlapping muzzle loading and archery seasons.
Ronald J. of Elizabeth, Pennsylvania; Morosco
Montezuma County Detention Center
A hunting death inquest is being held in Dove Creek this week. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Margeson said three jurors were excused because of positive coronavirus diagnoses. Options include suspending the trial, continuing with 10 jurors, or a mistrial.
Margeson said he was not in favor of suspending the trial because jurors might hear comments about the case or be exposed to media coverage that could prejudice the defendant.
The defense filed a motion for a mistrial, which the plea granted, citing the absence of jurors.
The problem began when a juror was absent Friday because of a COVID-19 diagnosis, Margeson said.
The 13-member jury included an alternate member, so that person was excluded and the trial continued with the required 12 jurors.
On Monday morning, a second juror was absent, citing a positive coronavirus test. Upon arriving at court, a third juror reported feeling ill and subsequently tested positive.
The defense made a motion for a mistrial, which Plewe granted. The remaining jurors were dismissed from service.
“The public understands the court’s decision to declare a mistrial based on health concerns,” Murgeson said in a statement. “We thank our jurors for their time and attention. The parties will meet again in November to discuss next steps.
An attorney and two court employees were absent Monday due to illness, Margeson said.
He said the coronavirus outbreak between jurors and court staff had been discussed in open court. The details of the victims are not available.
The DA has 90 days to reconsider the case. No formal decision has been made pending discussions with the victim’s family, Margason said. If the case goes forward, a new jury will be selected.
A Dolores County Court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 8 at 3 p.m. for the parties to discuss the case’s disposition.
“The charges are still pending, so a decision will be made on whether to retry the outstanding charges,” Margeson said.
Jury selection for the trial took place on October 24-25. The trial, which began on Wednesday, is expected to last until Tuesday.
On Thursday, the prosecution changed its case. The defense presented its case on Friday, but the mistrial was cut short on Monday.