A Hennepin County District Court judge ordered separate trials for the couple charged with plotting to kill a Minneapolis Police Department forensic scientist who sustained multiple gunshot wounds in April but survived the attack.
Judge Shereen Askalani wrote in an order issued Wednesday that the prosecution's motion to join the trials of Timothy Allen Amacher and Colleen Purificacion Larson was denied and the cases would be tried separately. The couple is charged with attempted first-degree premeditated murder for the shooting of Nicole Lenway outside FamilyWise, a supervised parenting facility in southeast Minneapolis. Amacher, 41, faces an additional charge of aiding an accomplice after the fact.
Attorneys for both defendants opposed a joint trial, arguing they would be placing blame on each other and force the jury to pick one over the other. Larson, 24, filed her intent to claim defense of duress and insanity, alleging that she was pressured by Amacher to carry out the attack on Lenway, his former girlfriend and the mother of their 5-year-old son, of whom Amacher wanted sole custody.
Larson said during a hearing last month that she would not be able to effectively defend herself in the same courtroom as Amacher, who was her "abuser who has manipulated and controlled her," according to the Wednesday order.
While courts have approved joint trials when defendants are charged with a similar offense, Askalani wrote in the order that their defenses are antagonistic with Amacher arguing that Larson acted alone in the shooting while Larson said she was asked by Amacher to do it.
"The alleged evidence in the record shows the defendants worked in close concert with each other when attempting to murder the alleged victim," the judge wrote.
Askalani said part of her decision came down to the impact on Lenway, who suffered gunshot wounds to her arm and neck and a perforated lung. Amacher's attorney argued that Lenway would face a minimal impact upon having to testify in two trials because she had testified in court numerous times with her police work.
Prosecutors said two trials would be traumatic for Lenway, who already had to testify in child custody trials involving Amacher, and that her testimony for work and as a victim "who was shot at point-blank range" are not the same.
But ultimately Askalani found that prejudice would exist if the cases were joined for trial and the jury would be forced to believe one defendant's theory over the other.
"Overall, the court should focus on providing each defendant with a fair trial," the judge wrote. "[T]he defendants have conflicting interest in expediency of resolving the case."
Amacher, who remains in custody in lieu of $1 million bail, has demanded a speedy trial slated for Oct. 3, while Larson has not and her attorneys said at the last court hearing that they are still in the midst of their investigation and trying to find her mental health resources.
Larson, who has posted bail, said she would not be ready for a trial next month because of this, and a date for her trial has not been scheduled.