A man who was convicted in 2008 of sexual assault and negligent homicide in the rape and death of a Durango woman will receive a new trial in March.
Harold Nakai, 42, was convicted in the 2007 rape and death of his girlfriend, Nicole Leigh Redhorse, a Navajo woman. Because Nakai, also a Navajo, spoke limited English at the time of his first trial and did not grasp the concept of Miranda rights, he gave information to investigators that should have been suppressed, his defense says.
The Colorado Court of Appeals subsequently ordered the rare retrial; the Court of Appeals hears 650 to 900 cases annually and overturns 7.9 to 11.4 percent of convictions.
Nakai is scheduled for a two-week trial to begin March 14 in 6th Judicial District Court in Durango.
Authorities say Nakai and two cohorts, Derrick Nelson Begaye and Carlton Lee Yazzie, took an inebriated Redhorse to a room at the Spanish Trails Inn & Suites at 3141 Main Ave. in Durango in June 2007.
The three had sex with Redhorse, who was vaginally penetrated by a blunt object speculated to be a broken hammer handle.
At 0.47, the victim’s blood-alcohol level was nearly six times the legal driving limit of 0.08.
Nakai went to sleep after the assault, leaving Redhorse bleeding on the floor. Carol Huser, La Plata County’s coroner at the time, testified that Redhorse would have survived the assault had she received medical care.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Jeffrey Wilson gave Nakai 48 years for aggravated sexual assault and an additional three years for criminally negligent homicide.
Nakai was tried in Pueblo because Wilson thought the defendant would not get a fair trial in La Plata County because of the case’s ill repute.
Begaye and Yazzie were tried separately and convicted.
Todd Risberg, 6th Judicial District Attorney, recused himself from the case because he served as co-counsel for one of Nakai’s co-defendants during the first trial.
Seventh Judicial District Attorney Daniel Hotsenpiller, Assistant District Attorney Keri Yoder and Senior Assistant Attorney General Janet Drake are handling prosecution.
Public defenders Kent Pace and Amy Smith are representing Nakai.