The prosecution of a Colorado Springs man arrested in March on suspicion of fatally shooting his estranged wife before stabbing her mother to death has been at a standstill for eight months, repeatedly delayed by pandemic-related obstacles.
A judge Monday again postponed a key court proceeding for Timothy Ray Scott Jr., weeks after noting in a written order that “virtually nothing” has been done in the case against him.
It was the fourth postponement so far of Scott’s preliminary hearing. It is now scheduled for Feb. 9, nearly a year after his arrest. Such hearings are normally scheduled within three months of charges being filed.
The delays have kept Scott from advancing toward trial, but are unlikely to jeopardize the case against him, two veteran attorneys told The Gazette.
“It’s not unheard of,” said Tracey Eubanks, a defense attorney who’s not directly involved in the case. “I think it’s unique circumstances, unique times.”
Still, the stalled case highlights the degree to which the coronavirus threat has hampered court operations in El Paso County.
In September, 4th Judicial District Judge G. David Miller sought to get the case on track by approving Scott’s request for a new court-appointed attorney and ordering the removal his public defenders. Miller blamed the Office of the State Public Defender for what he called an “unreasonable policy” that prevents its attorneys from visiting clients at the El Paso County jail amid the threat of COVID-19, characterizing it as a source of continuing delays.
The Public Defender’s Office declined to comment, but provided a letter outlining its policy, which discourages in-person visits to jails where they may be at risk of spreading the virus among inmates.
Scott’s new attorney has likewise run into headwinds trying to represent him. During the court appearance Monday, attorney Phil Dubois said he had been unable to prepare for Scott’s preliminary hearing because of a recent jail policy barring in-person visits by attorneys in the wake of a record-setting coronavirus outbreak among inmates. The jail’s video visitation booths are riddled with audiovisual problems and lack privacy, Dubois told the court, making them a poor substitute for in-person visits.
Dubois said his client has access to a single video conferencing room that allows for private communications, and said it must be reserved with several days advance notice and can only be used for a limited time.
The Sheriff’s Office says it has 21 video booths available to inmates, including the recent additions of several rooms they consider private enough to host attorney-client meetings. A spokeswoman, Jacqueline Kirby, defended their sound quality and said four more rooms will be made available by the end of the month.
Scott, 28, is charged in bloody attacks on his wife, Ann Scott, and her mother, Tamara Dunn, at the younger woman’s apartment in north Colorado Springs. The killings came a week after Anne Scott petitioned for a divorce, another attempt to cut ties after filing for a protective order and repeatedly reporting abuse and stalking by her husband to police, court documents show.
Court records said Dunn had moved in with her daughter in a bid to protect her from him as Ann Scott pursued the divorce. She planned to leave the state to get away from him.
During his virtual court appearance this week, Scott appeared via video link from the jail, facing a camera in a small room with cinder-block walls.
Although Scott could be clearly heard through the court’s video conferencing program, Webex, Scott told the judge that he could “barely” hear him. Dubois compared the sound in the video booth to an “echo chamber.”
Dubois also complained that his client doesn’t have adequate access to evidence against him — another reason cited by the judge in granting another postponement.
Under the state speedy trial statute, a defendant has a right to trial within six months of being arraigned, but Scott’s arraignment will not be held until after a preliminary hearing is conducted.