Topete Trial Now Delayed Until August 1

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topete-marcoHearing Punctuated by Snarky Exchange Between DA and Defense Counsel –

Yet another delay in the trial of Marco Topete will push the start of the trial to more than three years after he allegedly shot and killed Yolo County Sheriff’s Deputy Tony Diaz.

The trial of Mr. Topete has been pushed back to August 1, 2011, and Judge Richardson will attempt to preserve as many of the jurors as possible who were death-qualified during a five week proces.

On Thursday, a note from the doctor for Thomas Purtell, co-counsel for the defense, confirmed what we all believed from the start – Mr. Purtell suffered an acute stroke and his doctor advised the 83-year-old attorney against getting involved in the death penalty case.

Flanking lead counsel for the defense, Hayes Gable, was Dwight Samuel, a death penalty qualified attorney.  He described himself as available following a federal jury trial set from June until July 15.

He suggested he could start by mid to late August, at the earliest, and believed, given the complexity of the case and the volume of discovery, pushing it to September would be better.

Hayes Gable reminded the court that he had a Federal Trial in July, and he had set this a long time ago for July 18.  It is a short trial of five days, but he had believed that this case would have been completed by that point.

The District Attorney’s office, led by Garrett Hamilton, has been unhappy for some time at what they have called delaying tactics. The DA’s office wanted to proceed back in September, only to see Mr. Topete dismiss his counsel, then subsequently take them back.

Mr. Hamilton told the court that Penal Code 987.05 required good cause to move the trial date (which he acknowledged existed).  However, he wanted the motion formalized in writing to list specific trial dates to move this forward.

Judge Richardson inquired from the defense as to what role Mr. Purtell would have played and what role Mr. Samuel would play.  Mr. Gable responded that they operated under an equal sharing of responsibilities even though he was the lead counsel who would make all final decisions.

He said that Mr. Purtell played a huge role and he foresaw that Mr. Samuel would play a similar role.

Mr. Hamilton continued, however, to push his concern that they be ready to proceed on a specific date in a motion.  He said, from what he had heard, Mr. Samuel may not be ready and he may not know how much work is required and he is afraid that there will be additional requests for continuances.

This led to a sarcastic response by Hayes Gable, suggesting that Mr. Hamilton wanted an assurance that they would never ask for a continuance.

Mr. Hamilton responded that he wants some assurance they can go forward at the specified date.

Mr. Gable reminded the court that Mr. Samuel will need to go over all documents and become fully familiar with the case, that there is no way they can predict at this point that they won’t need a continuance down the road.

Judge Richardson said that he understands the concerns of Mr. Hamilton and that he foresaw moving forward sooner than August.

Mr. Samuel responded that the August 1 calendar is clearly pushing it – he will have to drop everything except for the calendar in order to achieve that timeline.  He is willing to do it, but wanted the court to realize that this is an enormous task and will take sacrifice on his part to achieve it.

Judge Richardson said that the date in the court’s view is a generous scheduling.  He was also concerned that the court spent five weeks death-qualifying the jurors and he hopes to keep as many as he possible can.

They will go back to the jury and hardship them for August.  There were a number of concerns about the ability to do this, but Judge Richardson was adamant about preserving as many of the jurors as possible.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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3 thoughts on “Topete Trial Now Delayed Until August 1”

  1. E Roberts Musser

    Sounds like nerves are getting frayed on both prosecution and defense end, and the judge is not too happy either. This is the frustrating part of trial work, especially death penalty cases. It is difficult, I believe, to get attorneys to take death penalty cases – and you can see why… they are long, arduous, complicated…

  2. medwoman

    ….they are long, arduous, complicated …. And one might argue a waste of time, money and effort, since regardless of whether one favors or opposes this penalty, it in indisputable that it has not been enacted in California since 2006 thus effectively turning death row into life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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