CASTLE ROCK - The father of a slain Colorado corrections officer stood next to a line of potential jurors just outside the courthouse while holding anti-death penalty signs. Day one of jury selection in the murder trial of Edward Montour Jr. got underway at the Douglas County Justice Center on Monday.
"The death penalty is wrong, period," Bob Autobee said. "My family has forgiven Montour, the man who killed my son. We don't believe he deserves to die."
Eric Autobee was murdered inside the Limon Correctional Facility in 2002. Shortly after his death, Montour pleaded guilty to the crime while representing himself during court proceedings. A judge eventually handed down a death sentence, but that sentence was effectively tossed by the Colorado State Supreme Court in 2007, when it ruled that only a jury could sentence a defendant to death.
Last year Montour changed his plea from guilty to not guilty by reason of insanity, setting into motion Monday's initial round of jury selection. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, a decision Autobee's family has criticized loudly over the course of the last few months.
Montour was already serving a life sentence for murdering his young daughter when he used a heavy kitchen ladle to assault Autobee inside the Limon prison in 2002.
Last month Autobee and Montour met face to face inside a Douglas County courtroom for the first time. The meeting, recorded in a video obtained by 9Wants to Know, shows Autobee forgiving Montour for murdering his son.
District Attorney George Braucher's office put out this statement on Monday:
"We have great sympathy for the Autobee family and have spent many hours together in person and on the telephone discussing the prosecution of Edward Montour. The Autobees' feelings were a significant factor we considered in our efforts to obtain justice in this case. In regards to Mr. Autobee's protest at the Douglas County courthouse today, we believe that it is essential to our system of justice that jurors base their decisions on the evidence they hear in court during a trial. Obviously, if someone was approaching jurors outside the courthouse and telling them why they should go in and convict the defendant and sentence him to death, that would be a huge problem and unfair. We greatly respect the right to free speech, but we are concerned about the integrity of the criminal justice process."
Jury selection is expected to take weeks. A jury must be selected from a pool of nearly 3500 people. Testimony in the trial will likely not start until the first week of March.
Should the jury find Montour guilty, the trial will then move into the death penalty phase. Jurors will have to decide unanimously for death in order to hand out the sentence. There are currently three people on Colorado's death row.
Bob Autobee, a resident of Pueblo, plans on repeatedly coming back to the courthouse in Castle Rock to publicly protest the decision to continue to go for the death penalty.
"It's an inconvenience, but I've had worse inconveniences," he said.
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