Convicted Breckenridge killer awaits judge’s decision on request to overturn verdict
July 19, 2013
Nearly two years after convicted killer Chuck Garrison, formerly of Breckenridge, filed a motion to have his 2002 conviction for the murder of his wife overturned, he is still waiting for a decision.
Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett, who defense attorney David Wymore said should have delivered the decision within 60 days, has put off the decision several times and there has been no activity on the case in 18 months, according to prosecutors.
“It’s not standard procedure,” he said of the extended wait.
Wymore eventually involved the Colorado Supreme Court. Although his request to show cause for the delay was denied in May, the state’s highest court left the door open for him to petition again in 60 days. Wymore said he intends to do so, if Gannett hasn’t delivered a ruling by the end of that timeframe.
Gannett could not be reached by phone Monday.
Garrison, now 69, has spent more than 10 years in a state penitentiary and has had three heart attacks in that time, his lawyer said.
“He’s in frail health,” Wymore said. “He’s been trying to get his issues heard for a long time.”
Sharon Garrison disappeared in September of 2000. Her body was found roughly a month later, wrapped in a blue tarp and buried in the couple’s yard.
Fewer than two years later, Garrison was convicted of her murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing her with an ornamental pickax.
At trial, he claimed her death was an accident. The defense argued Sharon Garrison died in a physical fight she started and that she was the one who grabbed the pickax. Garrison testified the couple struggled over the weapon, he fell on top of his wife and the handle of the ax “stopped up under her throat,” the Summit Daily reported in April of 2002.
The Garrisons, both on their fourth marriage when they wed, had a rocky relationship. Both had filed for divorce at some point and Chuck had reportedly threatened to kill Sharon during an argument in 1998.
Garrison filed to have his conviction overturned and the case retried in August 2011 on the grounds of ineffective council, arguing there were errors and gaps in his original attorney Mark Johnson’s examination of witnesses at trial, as well as problems with the jury instructions.
Judge Terry Ruckriegle, who delivered Garrison’s sentence, said Sharon’s wounds were not consistent with his story.
But Wymore says he can present a medical witness who would testify to the contrary. He also claims Sharon Garrison’s previous ex-husband, who has passed away, alleged she attacked him with a similar pickax prior to their divorce — evidence which was not presented at the initial trial. Wymore said test results not provided to the defense during the original discovery showed Sharon was under the influence of stimulants when she died that “would have caused her to be irritable and aggressive.”
Former District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, who helped prosecute the case in 2002, previously told the Summit Daily it would be difficult to retry the case more than a decade after the crime occurred. He said he did not believe Garrison’s attorney was ineffective.
“Ultimately, if I feel an attorney is ineffective, we will say, fine we need to retry,” Hurlbert said. “But Mark Johnson was probably one of the most effective attorneys I’ve ever seen. He did a great job.”