A jury in Glenwood Springs convicted Michael Montgomery, 47, of second-degree murder Wednesday evening after more than 8 hours of deliberation.
The murder conviction means the jury determined the shooting was not self-defense, as Montgomery and his attorneys claimed. Montgomery was charged with murder for the March 2017 shooting of his son-in-law Chris Gallegos, then 28, outside of an apartment complex in Rifle.
He fled to Oregon after the shooting and was apprehended in September 2017. The trial started in Glenwood Spring last week with opening statements, witness testimony and case evidence presented throughout the week.
Closing arguments took up most of the morning as the prosecution focused mainly on Montgomery’s frame of mind leading up to and on the day of shooting.
Deputy District Attorney Ben Sollars said Facebook messages Montgomery sent the day before the killing gave the jury a glimpse of the mental state of Michael Montgomery.
Montgomery took the stand on Tuesday and during his testimony he stated he went to the apartment complex that day to confront another man and said he brought gloves with him because “more than likely I was going to get into a fight.”
“I was scared for my life,” Montgomery said during his testimony. Gallegos had exited the Acacia Apartment complex and said, “I have a gun, too,” according to Montgomery.
Sollars felt Montgomery’s own testimony Tuesday showed he formed intent.
All about the gloves
Sollars said one of the most powerful pieces of evidence throughout the trial were the gloves. Montgomery’s decision to bring and put gloves on that day “created a barrier between his fingerprints, his DNA, and the gun,” Sollars said.
The prosecution argued that tossing the gun further showed his intent.
“He’s making the decision that what I did was wrong and I have to disconnect from the evidence of the crime,” Sollars said.
Sollars said it was up to the jury to decide if it was an intentional deliberate act.
He added the defendant is legally authorized to use deadly force without first retreating if (1) he used it to defend himself from the use of unlawful physical force, (2) had reasonable ground to believe that he or another was in danger, (3) he reasonably believed lesser force was inadequate and (4) he was not the initial aggressor.
Sollars claimed it was clear by Montgomery’s threatening behavior toward Bracamontes, that he was the initial aggressor.
An individual can still claim self defense if they are the initial aggressor and “effectively withdraws” from the situation, Sollars said, but in his mind Montgomery did not.
Public defender Dana Christiansen had a different take on what happened on March 27, 2016 and what the evidence and witness testimony showed leading up to and following Gallegos’ death.
Christiansen questioned whether Montgomery was this “Wile E. Coyote the prosecution will have you believe,” and said Montgomery’s actions following the shooting resembled a man in shock, not a man who had everything planned out.
He also questioned the authenticity of Montgomery’s Facebook messages as a complete reflection of his character and even mentioned the President’s own use of social media and whether that is a complete representation of the truth all the time.
Furthermore, Christiansen felt the prosecution’s interpretation of self-defense in this case was skewed. Their theory that Montgomery went into the apartment that day to harm Bracamontes and therefore Gallegos was free to use whatever form of attack unless or until Montgomery tells him he withdraws from the situation “doesn’t make sense in the real world, ” he said.
He asked the jury to use their common sense and reasoning when examining the evidence and making their decision.
As a violent crime, second-degree murder carries a minimum sentence of 16 years in prison and a maximum of 48. Montgomery was also convicted of menacing with a deadly weapon and tampering with evidence.