Request for dismissal rejected

Wesson's lawyer says he will know in a week whether he can make June trial date.

The Fresno Bee/May 21, 2004
By Matt Leedy

Marcus Wesson will stand trial in Fresno's worst mass murder, a Fresno County judge affirmed Thursday. Now, it's just a question of when.

Wesson's attorney, public defender Peter Jones, told Judge R.L. Putnam he hasn't seen enough of the prosecution's evidence to know whether he can be ready in time for the trial's June 21 start date.

After Putnam denied Jones' motion to have nine murder charges against Wesson dismissed, Jones said he needed another week before he could confirm the trial date or ask for a delay.

Wesson still wants a speedy trial, Jones said at the 57-year-old's hearing in Fresno County Superior Court.

Wesson was allowed to change his clothes before Thursday's hearing. He wore an untucked, light-blue dress shirt, black cargo pants and black boots. At previous hearings, Wesson was dressed in his yellow jail-issued jumpsuit.

Three of Wesson's sons, Almae, Serafino and Marcus Jr., sat in the courtroom gallery. Before the hearing, their father waved to them and smiled.

After leaving the courthouse, Serafino Wesson said he and his brothers were excited to see their father.

None of them has been allowed to visit him in jail, he said.

"This is the first time in a long time we've been allowed to see him," said Serafino Wesson, 19, who added that family members have been writing Wesson and have received one letter from him. "I've never been so far away from him." Wesson has balked at most attempts to postpone his court hearings. He refused to have his preliminary hearing delayed, despite Jones' request to wait until he was better prepared. The preliminary hearing, in which a judge decides whether there is enough evidence to have a trial, ended April 12 when Wesson was ordered to stand trial.

If Wesson still doesn't want a postponement Thursday, when he's scheduled for a trial confirmation hearing, jury selection could begin next month -- whether Wesson's attorneys are ready or not.

Prosecutor Lisa Gamoian said she'll turn over more evidence to Wesson's lawyers today.

The District Attorney's Office has not announced whether it will seek the death penalty against Wesson, who is charged with the March slaying of nine people believed to be his children. Wesson also is accused of 14 sex crimes, including rape.

He's pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

"There's just a considerable amount of work," Jones said. "And as far as I'm concerned, this is a death-penalty case until Miss Gamoian advises me otherwise."

Jones reiterated Thursday his complaints about what he has called a slow release of evidence from the District Attorney's Office. Wesson's defense team has received 2,800 pages of evidence, also called discovery, but Jones said they're still waiting for several documents that could influence the case, including:

Videotapes of interviews and transcripts.

Forensic evidence.

Gunshot residue and ballistic tests.

Blood tests.

"We certainly cannot declare readiness to proceed," said Jones, adding that he has "yet to receive most of the discovery."

Wesson was arrested March 12, when officers found bodies of nine victims, ranging in age from 1 to 25, stacked in a back bedroom of his central Fresno home.

Police were called to Wesson's home for a report of a domestic dispute. Two women had arrived with several friends and family members in an effort to retrieve their children.

Wesson talked to police from his doorway, but when officers were distracted he retreated to the back bedroom, where he stayed for 80 minutes before surrendering.

During Jones' argument Thursday to have the murder charges against Wesson dropped, he said officers who surrounded the home did not hear any gunshots during the standoff. "These children were killed before Mr. Wesson ever went into that room."

Gamoian, however, said several members of Wesson's family heard gunfire. "Nothing happened to the children in the bedroom until Wesson left the doorway," she said.

Putnam ruled there is sufficient evidence to uphold Judge Lawrence Jones' order to have Wesson stand trial. He could rule next week on whether to unseal search warrants used in the police investigation of Wesson.

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