CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (KDVR) — Hours after a Douglas County jury returned nearly four dozen guilty verdicts against STEM School Highlands Ranch shooter Devon Erickson, the lead prosecutor on the case talked one-on-one with FOX31.
“It was a little unexpectedly emotional for me,” said veteran prosecutor George Brauchler. “And I remember feeling my eyes start to well up a bit.”
The reason for the emotion was John and Maria Castillo — parents of 18-year-old Kendrick, who was murdered as he rushed Erickson on May 7, 2019 —were sitting just steps away from Brauchler. They were in the front row of the courtroom, as they had been for every day of the trial that’s lasted three weeks.
“I looked over and saw John (Castillo) put his head down, Maria weeping a bit, and I thought to myself: one good (is that) we were able to get justice for the person they lost,” Brauchler said.
Brauchler, the former 18th Judicial District Attorney who stayed on as a deputy to help try the case, called more than 60 witnesses with his team of prosecutors and presented about 200 pieces of evidence during the trial.
Erickson’s sentencing is set for Sept. 17. Brauchler said if he “serves life without parole, yes, that will be justice.” But he argued against recent waves of legislation that limit or change punishments for people convicted of crimes at a young age.
Brauchler has testified against such bills, whose supporters say the human brain is not fully developed at that age — even into the early 20s — and argue that people sentenced at young ages could be deserving of a second chance.
“Our legislature has gone so crack-smoke crazy — they’ve gone so cuckoo for cocoa puffs on this — that they have contemplated ways to get people out of prison for committing acts similar to this just because of their age,” Brauchler said.
Brauchler said he’s referring to convicts in the 18-24 range.
“If the legislature were to change the sentencing range for killers like this, then it would not be justice,” Brauchler said.
One witness in Erickson’s trial was Alec McKinney, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and dozens of other charges for his role in the deadly school shooting.
When asked how difficult a decision that was to put a school shooter on the stand for prosecutors, Brauchler responded: “That’s a really good question. This is how the sausage is made. We were debating that up until the day we put the co-defendant on the stand.”
“And there’s pluses and minuses with it,” Brauchler continued. “We sweated that a lot. And there’s no way we could put someone like that on the stand and look like we like them, or we’re buddy-buddy with them, or we did them a favor. That is a killer. That’s a horrible person. But they could bring to the courtroom some information that only they had and only they could give, that shed light on their co-defendant and that ended up being a big deal.”