Defense attorneys asked STEM judge to recuse herself

Why the judge was asked to leave remains unclear

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Earlier this month, the defense team for the older suspect in the STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting requested the judge presiding over the case recuse herself less than one hour after prosecutors asked for certain case files to be unsuppressed.

The judge, District Court Judge Therese Slade, initially presided over both suspects' court proceedings but has since recused herself from the younger suspect's case. It's unclear if she still presides over the older suspect's case.

Devon Erickson, 18, and Alec McKinney, 16, face 48 charges on suspicion of carrying out the May 7 shooting that left one dead and eight more injured. Senior Kendrick Castillo was killed. One of the eight injured is believed to have been shot by a security guard on scene, not the suspects, according to a court document.

Their cases remained entirely suppressed until June 20 when formal charges and the probable cause affidavit in Erickson's case were released.

Slade's order to release the Erickson files also detailed the request from his defense attorneys for her to recuse herself. That was precipitated by a motion the defense filed to unsuppress a court file on June 6, one day before the suspect would appear in court.

“Less than an hour later, Defendant filed a motion seeking the recusal of the judge in this case,” Slade wrote. “A motion to recuse, by law, stays any further substantive proceedings in the case.”

She did not explain why the defense attorneys requested she leave the case. The court still held the June 7 hearing to address “non-substantive scheduling matters.”

In that hearing, Slade said the defense requested more information and time to supplement the recusal motion. She then considered their request incomplete and the stay lifted.

Later than night, Slade granted prosecutors' motion to release court files and scheduled their release for June 12, pending questions she wanted answered regarding necessary redactions.

The order never went into effect, she said.

On June 11, prosecutors answered the questions but before she could consider their response or redactions could be completed, the defense said they would not supplement their request for recusal further, putting it back into effect, and substantive proceedings were again halted.

The court has since ruled on their recusal motion and released some documents. Slade did not say what her ruling on the recusal motion was. A spokeswoman for the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office said they could not say if Slade remains on the case because it is still suppressed. Defense attorneys were not immediately available for comment.

It was revealed Slade recused herself from McKinney's case when he last appeared in court on June 14, but before a new judge, District Court Judge Jeffrey Holmes. Holmes said the defense also requested Slade's recusal in that case.

Documents in McKinney's case are still sealed and his name is redacted from documents in Erickson's case. Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler is prosecuting the 16-year-old as an adult although defense attorneys are working to have the case transferred back to juvenile court.

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