In a rare ruling, an El Paso County judge dismissed a murder charge against Matthew Houston for the February death of Manuel “Manny” Vigil. Matthew Houston was represented by David Foley of The Foley Law Firm.
The move was highly unusual, because murder charges are rarely dismissed in pre-trial hearings. Judges in such cases are instructed to resolve factual disputes in the prosecution’s favor. Instead, 4th Judicial District Judge Deborah Grohs stated that prosecutors presented “absolutely no evidence” that Matthew Houston played a role in the incident in which Manny Vigil was killed and a second man, Theran Hopke, was paralyzed. “Even in the light most favorable to the people, I cannot find any evidence to support the charges against him,” Judge Grohs said.
In order to arraign a person for a crime, prosecutors must only present evidence that there is “probable cause” to believe that the person committed the crime. Although that’s a low bar, in this case even that bar was too high for the prosecutor to overcome. Commenting on the judge’s ruling to dismiss the charges against Matthew Houston, David Foley said “I’ve been practicing law for 18 years and I’ve never heard of it. I don’t think he should have been charged.”
How the shootings happened
The shootings evidently arose from a dispute over a drug deal. Manny Vigil had made death threats to Matthew Houston and William Prine, including the sending of a cellphone photo of the Stetson Hills rental home where Houston and Prine were living. On the night of February 6, 2017, Manny Vigil approached the home armed with a pistol in one hand and a rock in the other. In response, William Prine allegedly shot Manny Vigil and Theran Hopke from the second floor of the home. Colorado’s Make My Day law ordinarily requires that the person shot must make an “unlawful entry”, but William Prine’s attorney intends to invoke the law in his defense.
The Gazette quoted David Foley as saying “You shouldn’t have to wait for some gangbanger to come walking through your door before you take action.”