By Georgie Kulczyk
The Courier 

Jay Witkowski – Change of Plea Hearing

 

August 23, 2017



A change of plea hearing for Jay Witkowski was held in the Valley County Courthouse on Aug. 16.

Those attending the hearing were required to submit to security screening, performed by the Valley County Sheriff’s Department, prior to entering the courtroom.

Witkowski was originally set to go on trial for the Dec. 31, 2016, death of Evelynn Garcia.

In the courtroom for the prosecution was Valley County Attorney Dylan Jensen and Chief of the Prosecution Services Bureau of the Attorney General’s office, Brant Light.

Appearing in shackles and stripes, Witkowski was flanked by his defense team, Clark Mathews of the Montana Office of Public Defenders and Terrance Toavs, who has a private practice in Wolf Point.

District Court Judge Yvonne Laird presided over the proceedings, which lasted less than 30 minutes.

Mathews, answering questions posed by Judge Laird, indicated that Witkowski was aware of all implications associated with his change of plea, and also said that there had been many discussions regarding possible defenses for his client.

When asked if the defendant had been able to aid and participate in his own defense, Mathews assured the judge that he had, stating, “We’ve had many discussions and he has engaged in those discussions.”

Following the brief questioning of Mathews, the defendant was sworn in and allowed to testify from the defense table.

Judge Laird asked several questions of Witkowski that were apparently meant to confirm his comprehension of the proceedings and possible repercussions of a guilty plea.

Following those questions, and prior to Witkowski entering his plea, Judge Laird summarized the charge he was facing: one count of deliberate homicide, a felony, and clarified that deliberate homicide is defined as “purposely or knowingly causing the death of another human being.”


As all in attendance listened, Judge Laird pointedly asked of Witkowski, “Did you knowingly cause the death of Evelynn Garcia?” to which he replied, “Yes.” During questioning, Witkowski also confirmed his use of a dangerous weapon during the attack on Garcia.

Sentencing for Witkowski is set for Oct. 2, at 9 a.m., and he will be held in the Valley County Detention Center without bail until that time.

 

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