PASCO -- Lawyers for Vicente Ruiz want a judge to toss out the 22-year-old murder case, saying they were deprived of more than 500 pages of police reports, including documents that could be favorable to the defense.
Peter Connick pointed to "basically two phone books of paperwork" on the defense table Monday as he explained why his client deserves to have the charges dropped.
Connick and his colleagues said they only received the photocopies on Friday after going through the Pasco police file once they learned of evidence they say was never handed over.
"Hundreds of pages of discoverable material have not been provided the defense although the case is halfway through trial. Because of the intentional nondisclosure, the defense cannot proceed," Connick wrote in a motion. "The defense therefore requests for dismissal and/or a mistrial."
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Ruiz, 45, is accused of helping gun down six men inside Medina's Body Shop in Pasco in 1987.
His Franklin County Superior Court trial started April 19 but has been delayed several times, including by the Washington state Court of Appeals.
Because the motion was only filed Monday morning, Judge Cameron Mitchell gave prosecutors a day to file a response. The issue will be argued today.
Jurors were told not to come to court Monday and were to be given the same instructions for today, Mitchell said.
Deputy Prosecutor Frank Jenny -- who got into a heated dispute with defense attorney Bob Thompson -- said the defense lawyers had "found no relevant information they should have received previously. Instead, they went through all the work product files of the police department, which they're not even entitled to (have) to begin with."
The court has already lost one juror "from all the delays brought about by the defense," Jenny said, and it is imperative to move forward with the trial.
"The defense just seems to have a mental block in trying this case in Franklin County," Jenny added. "They will do anything they can to cause a mistrial in this case."
Kevin Holt took exception to Jenny's comment and said "we cannot proceed at this time with this discovery."
He questioned if the withholding of information -- like eyewitnesses who did not pick Ruiz out of photo lineups as the suspect -- was intentional by somebody who "sat down and (decided) anything that will give this guy a defense will not be provided."
Ruiz is charged with five counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of first-degree attempted murder in the Oct. 13, 1987, shootings. Five men died and a sixth was wounded but survived.
The trial has been in recess since June 15 when the defense said they'd only been notified of new evidence including a fingerprint taken from the Mazda RX7. They then asked for a mistrial or dismissal of the case because of issues with evidence rules.
Mitchell then agreed with the defense that prosecutors had failed to properly provide information about the fingerprint. Prosecutors had said they had just become aware of the fingerprint report, and that it may have been overlooked because of a discrepancy in the spelling of Ruiz's name.
Mitchell granted the defense more time to investigate the evidence. However, he then said the issues weren't serious enough to warrant ending the trial or tossing out the charges.
But the defense attorneys are renewing that request after reportedly finding hundreds of pages of information they were never provided, including a "41/2 -inch binder labeled 'other subjects' that contained 15-plus individuals" and reports from confidential informants "connecting the murders to a drug cartel and other murders on the West Coast," Thompson wrote in a letter to Mitchell.
On Monday, Thompson said he doesn't want to accuse anybody of "bad faith because it is clear of my review of discovery that there are items the state of Washington never had."
But Connick did not mince words, saying his co-counsel "was being generous when he says the state didn't have it. I would take issue with that."
Connick acknowledged that Jenny and Deputy Prosecutor Brian Hultgrenn may not have been the prosecutors on the case in 1994 when Ruiz's cousin, Pedro Mendez-Reyna, was caught and tried for his role in the shootings. But he said he believes the prosecutors did have knowledge of the other evidence.
The defense pointed out a memo found in a police file from Sgt. Mike Monroe in May 1994. It was addressed to "whomever it may concern" and referenced information received from confidential informants about Mendez-Reyna and the homicide case.
"These reports should not be released at all until it is first discussed with the Franklin County prosecutor and Cpl. (Henry) Montelongo or Sgt. Monroe," the memo said.
Connick, in his 16-page motion, said the defense can't be expected mid-trial "to conduct investigation regarding the many people now disclosed, some of which identify other people through reports and montage picks." The defense must hire experts for further review of "a substantial amount of highly relevant information," he said.
Ruiz's due process rights to a fair trial and "a meaningful opportunity to present a defense" have been corrupted by misconduct of police and prosecutors, he said.
"There was a previous mistrial in this case (in 2008) due to a late request by the state to test a straw hat with black band," the motion said. "The discovery violations in this case are so serious that the case should be dismissed."
* Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; email@example.com