|Jury chosen for Northern Colorado punter accused of stabbing rival in bid to take over job|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 31 July 2007 15:02|
Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck said the first day of practice last fall provided a tragic start for Mitch Cozad, who transferred from Wyoming to Northern Colorado and didn't get a football scholarship.
``It was obvious to coaches, Rafael (Mendoza) was by far the better punter. To everyone, except one person,'' Buck said. ``He could not accept the fact he was inferior, and he devised a plan to do off the field what couldn't do on the field.''
Cozad, of Wheatland, Wyo., is charged with attempted first-degree murder and second-degree assault and could face up to 48 years in prison if convicted.
He's accused of ambushing Mendoza last Sept. 11 in a dimly lit parking lot outside Mendoza's apartment in Evans, a small town next to Greeley. Mendoza suffered a 3- to 5-inch-deep wound in his kicking leg.
He told detectives his attacker tried twice to stab him in the chest, police investigator George Roosevelt testified at a hearing in January.
But defense attorney Joseph Gavaldon said a prosecution witness who said he was with Cozad at Mendoza's apartment complex is the person to blame.
``The person who stabbed Rafael Mendoza is not on trial in this case. His name is Kevin Aussprung,'' Gavaldon said, adding Cozad does not fit the description of the assailant.
Aussprung, who has denied wrongdoing and who prosecutors noted had back surgery five months before the attack, has not been charged.
He lived in the same dorm building as Cozad and testified in January that Cozad offered him $100 to take care of his car while Cozad handled ``some business'' at an apartment complex.
Aussprung testified that 15 to 20 minutes after they arrived, Cozad ran back to the car and said they had to leave. In a separate affidavit, Aussprung has said Cozad placed what appeared to be a knife into a plastic bag after returning to the car.
Aussprung will testify again later this week. The trial is expected to last up to two weeks.
It took a day and a half for prosecutors, defense lawyers and the judge to whittle down the 250-member pool of potential jurors. They wound up with seven men and seven women, including two alternates who have not been identified.
Defense attorney Gavaldon earlier expressed concern about finding jurors who had not been affected by the media coverage of the attack, which drew comparisons to the assault by Tonya Harding's hit man on Nancy Kerrigan.
``Everybody's read about it, most of the people have,'' he said. ``At least 70 percent have formed opinions.''
Buck wouldn't comment on pretrial publicity.
During jury selection, Chief Deputy District Attorney Michele Myer asked potential jurors if they watched ``CSI,'' CBS's crime-investigation series.
``Do you realize science has limits, and we do not have a camera in sky that constantly watches what's going on in the world?'' she said.
Gavaldon asked whether jurors would think Cozad had anything to hide if he did not take the stand.
He also asked how many had looked at Cozad and said, ``I wonder if he's falsely accused?''
On Monday, Meyer asked District Court Judge Marcelo Kopcow to omit a portion of a taped interview between a police investigator and Cozad on the subject of a polygraph test.
The two sides discussed the issue with Kopcow, who ruled the portion wouldn't be taken out.
Gavaldon refused to discuss the nature of the interview.