Lawyers told to represent murder suspect who won't help with proceedings

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 8, 2012 

Lawyers for a man charged with helping his brother gun down a Pasco couple were told Tuesday that they must continue to represent him.

Judge Carrie Runge denied a defense motion to withdraw in the case of Jose Garcia-Morales.

Runge said the court already determined that Garcia-Morales is competent and is choosing not to actively participate in the legal proceedings.

"The defense counsel has done everything possible to communicate with Mr. Garcia-Morales and keep him abreast of the case and what's going on," Runge said, noting there was no indication of a conflict or falling out.

The judge also said if she allowed Shelley Ajax and Moe Spencer to withdraw because their client no longer will communicate with them, the court would have difficulty getting another lawyer to take on the case after that finding.

Garcia-Morales is scheduled for trial March 14 in Franklin County Superior Court. He is charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.

The 28-year-old man stopped talking with his attorneys a year ago and regularly comes to court in a wheelchair, where he sits with his head down and eyes closed.

Ajax, in requesting the withdrawal, said she doesn't get any gestures, head nods or voice communication whatsoever.

Special prosecutor Amy Harris objected to the motion, saying there is nothing to suggest the breakdown in communication was caused by the lawyers. She added that if granted, Garcia-Morales likely would be left to represent himself.

Prosecutors allege that on Dec. 10, 2008, Garcia-Morales went with his older brother, Ramon, to confront Alfredo Garcia about money the brothers believed they were owed because they had been deprived of work in the fields.

Garcia, 42, was shot six times and died from his wounds. His wife, Maria Ramirez de Garcia, was hit four times. She has trouble seeing out of her right eye and now uses a wheelchair.

Three of the couple's daughters were in the Manzanita Lane home at the time and had a gun pointed at them, but were not physically harmed because the assailants fled when they heard approaching police sirens.

The brothers were arrested the next day near Mountain Home, Idaho, while reportedly on their way to Southern California.

Ramon Garcia-Morales is serving a 67-year, two-month prison sentence. He was convicted last spring of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree assault and four firearm charges.

Jose Garcia-Morales will deny any involvement in the shooting once the case goes before a jury. His lawyer, Ajax, has said they will argue that he was "merely present" when his brother opened fire.

Also Tuesday, Judge Runge gave prosecutors permission to do a videotape deposition of Capt. Michael Barclay of the Elmore County Sheriff's Department.

Barclay briefly spent time with Jose Garcia-Morales in the Idaho jail after his arrest. He was expected to testify at a March 12 hearing on the admissibility of Garcia-Morales' statements, but is scheduled for training in Oklahoma that week.

Whether Barclay's actual deposition testimony can be used in his place at that hearing will be decided at a later date, Runge said.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com

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