Sigg’s lawyers arguing for venue change, building mental trauma defense

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

GOLDEN, Colo. -- Defense attorneys for the 18-year-old accused of kidnapping and murdering Westminster 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway asked a judge Thursday to grant a change of venue for their client Austin Sigg's upcoming murder trial.

Citing reports from a researcher who did a statewide marketing survey for the defense, Sigg's lawyers insisted an unprecedented percentage of the Jefferson County population have knowledge about the case.

In fact, the defense said the research showed that a substantial portion of the surveyed population were able to identify Sigg more easily than their two U.S. Senators, and an exponential portion of those survey were able to identify Sigg and not their district attorney.

The judge did not rule on the defense request Thursday. Instead, he wants to bring potential jurors into the courtroom and interview them to see if Sigg can get a fair trial in Jefferson County. The judge denied a defense motion for a continuance in the case.

During an earlier recess in Thursday's motions hearing, prosecutors asserted that Austin Sigg's lawyers are attempting to build a mental trauma-related defense.

That is what Jefferson County Deputy District Attorney Hal Sargent said he deduced from the defense's introduction of Dr. Mari Banich, a University of Colorado-Boulder psychologist, as an expert in neuroscience. Banich testified Thursday that adolescents with lesser-developed frontal lobes have a more difficult time planning and executing a plan than adults.

Though Banich has never evaluated Sigg, she is testifying as an expert in brain development -- hence the reason for Sargent's assertions.

"We are expecting the defense will introduce evidence of trauma," Sargent said. "Not physical trauma, but mental trauma."

Sargent went on to say the defense is not expected to make an insanity defense. Instead, it appears likely Sigg's lawyers will argue that their client was not able to appropriately perceive his actions as criminal.

Thursday's court date marked the last major motions hearing ahead of Sigg's trial. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in September. The 18-year-old, who was 17 years old at the time of his alleged crimes, faces 18 counts in all, and will be tried as an adult.

AlertMe
Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.