Newmiller Gets 31 Years for Stabbing, But Questions Remain
May 25, 2006
Today, in a hearing at El Paso County Combined Court, convicted
second-degree murderer Todd Newmiller received 31 years in prison for the
fatal stabbing of Anthony Madril. The stabbing, a single knife wound which
penetrated Madril's ribs and pierced through both of his ventricles,
occurred the night of November 20, 2004, during a confrontation down the
street from the Appaloosa strip club, just east of Powers. The hearing was
presided over by El Paso County Chief Justice Gilbert A. Martinez.
The sentencing hearing began with the defense making a motion for a new trial. The motion, and many of the successive defense testimonies, concerned Brad Orgill, a witness in the trial. Orgill allegedly brawled heavily with Madril during the melee in which Madril was fatally stabbed. The retrial motion's foundation was a sexual assault allegation against Orgill during the Newmiller trial.
Orgill was under suspicion for Madril's stabbing initially, but was granted immunity by the District Attorney's office in exchange for testimony against Newmiller. This evidence proved particularly damning against Newmiller's case. If the charges against Orgill had been proven, Orgill would have lost his DA immunity and likely appeared alongside Newmiller at the defense table, but the motion, however, was ultimately denied on grounds that the allegations would not have demonstrably affected the jurors' decision.
A tissue box was placed on the lectern, and prosecuting witnesses began testimony. Nearly all of the witnesses asked that Newmiller receive the maximum sentence: 48 years. Bonnie Madril, the victim's mother, went first, setting the tone for many of the following testimonies, characterizing Anthony Madril as a friend to everyone he met, a good kid with past troubles slowly disappearing, and an aspiring missionary. Many speakers and attendees wore "In Loving Memory" shirts depicting Madril's smiling face. At one point, Bonnie asked Todd Newmiller to admit what he had done, a sentiment many of her friends and family would repeat.
The melancholy of Michael Moreno, Anthony Madril's father, was palpable — "I used to be happy-go-lucky," he told the judge. "Now it's just memories." His was the only statement on the part of the prosecution that didn't ask specifically that Todd receive the maximum sentence, instead asking Martinez to "please have compassion for our family."
Joe Madril, Anthony's younger brother, called Madril the "best brother you could ask for in the world" — Anthony's family's love and sorrow became only too clear when a majority of the Madril family's speakers made use of the available tissues, often pausing to regain their composure. Arlene Vargos was particularly damning of Newmiller, saying that Madril's memory would best be served by Newmiller "sitting in prison for as long as possible."
Todd Newmiller took a deep breath, awaiting the next onslaught. One witness suggested he was leading a double life — "Jekyll and Hyde, maybe," an accusation related to Todd's previous arrests for DUI and eluding the police, as well as his frequency at the Appaloosa, which contrast sharply with his love of philosophy, religious studies, and his family.
To many, a lingering question remains: Did the police get the right guy? The defense certainly didn't think so, repeatedly coming back to the immunity deal given Brad Orgill by the DA's office. Edith Disler, a colleague of Todd's father Bill, said that the DA's office was out to get "a guilty verdict; they did not get the guilty man." Jackson Niday, a family friend, echoed her statement, saying that were he in the Madril family's situation, he would like an eye for an eye as well, but that he "would want the right eye." Many friends of Todd and his parents spoke on his behalf, many of them staffers at the Air Force Academy, where Todd's father Bill works as an English teacher.
This background was reflected in the elder Newmiller's eloquent speech, in which he wished he were "Shakespeare or a Cervantes" to more articulately express his sorrow, love, pride, and frustration. He argued that a prosecuting witness, a serologist, had perjured herself and been impeached during the trial, testimony stricken, but had been welcomed to sit with the District Attorney's table and provide advice for cross-examination. In this case, Bill said, "both the lie and the liar were embraced."
Statements by both attorneys followed, but Todd Newmiller had the last word himself, a hastily-written missive made necessary by the police's refusal to let him transport his prepared statement from CJC. Escorted to the podium in hand and ankle cuffs, Newmiller expressed sympathy for the Madril family and his "deep and inexpressible sadness" at their loss and at the trial's outcome. He thanked his family, and told the story of his first squirrel-hunting trip, in which he had cried at seeing his quarry's still body. "That was the first and last time," he professed, "I ever killed an animal larger than an insect."
When Martinez finally handed down his sentence, the courtroom was silent, immobile. The sentence, approaching neither the minimum nor maximum possible for the charge, was almost guaranteed to please no one. Bonnie Madril had no comment, while Gloria Newmiller, Todd's mother, called it a "disappointment."
The 31 year sentence, intended to bring a resolution to the protracted grief of the Madril family, looks to be just the beginning: Todd Newmiller had not even left the stand before his lawyers began the appeal process. The gravity of the sentence precluded Judge Martinez from offering an appeal bond, and now, Todd Newmiller sits in jail, thinking, writing, waiting.
Full disclosure: Craig Richardson, a close friend of Todd Newmiller who testified at both the trial and the sentence hearing, sells ads for the High Plains Messenger and put us in contact with Todd's parents, through whom (and whose attorneys) we received police documents relating to the trial. We were very reluctant to follow this case because of the potential conflict of interests, but Rich Tosches' Denver Post column, as well as other media outlets' coverage, have convinced us that it would be a disservice to both families involved to pretend the case did not exist. We are investigating the case thoroughly and will continue to do so, and will present our findings at a later juncture. We have striven to maintain high standards of journalistic integrity, and have not at this time come to any conclusion as to whether Todd is innocent or guilty. What we can say we know so far is that Anthony Madril was stabbed in the heart, that there were at least two knives at the crime scene, that some evidence substantiates Todd's guilt, and that much of the evidence directly contradicts it. To many, it seems that "conflict of interest" has become synonymous with "digging too deep," and we disagree wholeheartedly: Journalism, like so many other fields, is in essence a search for the truth. It is our belief that the truth often requires not simply passive observation, but active investigation. The trial has proven an interesting case itself, and the sentence hearing provides a convenient outline of both the court's findings and the Newmillers' objections. We urge you to share any concerns or comments you might have, and have provided a comment section at the bottom of the article for this purpose. Stay tuned, as we break important news on this case in the next few days.