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Publish Date: 3/4/2005

Jury still out on Sutton case


BOULDER — A former Colorado lottery winner is awaiting his fate, as a jury deliberated for more than eight hours Thursday to determine if he is guilty of attempted murder.

Kevin Sutton, 26, of Longmont is charged with attempted second-degree murder, second-degree assault and felony menacing. He is accused of shooting Cristobal Lopez, then 40, in the head on June 26 at Sutton’s home. The bullet entered Lopez’s temple, near his right eye, and exited behind his ear, but did not penetrate the skull. Lopez testified he still has bullet fragments beneath the skin that cause him pain when he works with melted aluminum.

The jury of eight men and four women has to decide if Sutton acted in self-defense, which would allow them to acquit him of all charges. If they reject Sutton’s claim that he was afraid Lopez and his stepson, Joseph Rios, would not leave his house and had cornered him in his kitchen before he shot Lopez, the jurors still have to decide if he was trying to kill Lopez or if he was acting recklessly.

To claim self-defense, a person must have reasonably believed the use of force was imminent and the person’s response must be reasonable.

Sutton’s attorney, Nancy Holton, argued Sutton was afraid Rios or Lopez would stab him, in part because Rios stabbed Anthony Ruiz, 18, during a party in September 1998. Ruiz died of his injuries, but Rios was acquitted of murder in 1999, after he claimed self-defense.

Holton insisted Sutton was acting out of an instinct to survive when he shot Lopez.

Some jurors looked confused when Lopez, who was the prosecution’s first witness, testified, Holton said. If he had turned his head the way he described, Holton said, he would have been shot in the side of the head, not grazed on the temple.

“If you look perplexed, if you scratched your head, that’s a reasonable doubt,” Holton said.

Prosecutor Bruce Langer argued Sutton was responsible for the shooting because he had been drinking for at least eight hours before the shooting and he kept his loaded gun near the front door of his home. Also, Sutton invited Rios and Lopez back into the house after they left once.

“It was the defendant’s decision and he should be forced to live with the consequences of that decision,” Langer said. “What he did was criminal and he needs to be forced to accept the consequences.”

Victoria Camron can be reached at 303-684-5226, or by e-mail at vcamron@times-call.com.

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