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Ruiz trial on hold again

PASCO -- The on-again, off-again trial of Vicente Ruiz will remain in recess Monday because the defense needs more time to review voluminous police records they say never were handed over in the 22-year-old case.

Lawyer Bob Thompson sent a letter to Franklin County Judge Cameron Mitchell on Friday asking that jurors not be brought in Monday morning as scheduled.

The defense "has been working frantically" since the murder case was put on hold Tuesday, but Thompson said they've come to realize "there was much material" they weren't given.

Ruiz, 45, is accused of helping gun down six men inside Medina's Body Shop in Pasco in 1987. His trial started April 19 but has been delayed a number of times, including by the Washington state Court of Appeals.

"This continues to be an ongoing discovery breach and serious Brady implications," Thompson wrote, referring to a 1963 federal ruling that says the withholding of evidence violates due process. "The defense must ask for a mistrial at this time. Minimally, the defense is not prepared to go forward."

Mitchell approved a delay after it reportedly was agreed to by prosecutors. The letter was filed in Ruiz's Franklin County Superior Court case.

Ruiz is charged with five counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of first-degree attempted murder for the Oct. 13, 1987, shootings. Five men died and a sixth survived.

Thompson, Kevin Holt and Peter Connick asked for the recess last Tuesday, saying they only recently had been notified of some new evidence including a fingerprint taken from a car. They then asked for a mistrial or dismissal of the case because of issues with evidence rules.

Mitchell agreed with the defense that prosecutors failed to properly provide information about the fingerprint, which was taken from a car connected to the case and reportedly matched Ruiz.

Prosecutors told the court they had just become aware of the fingerprint report, which 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. He said the issues weren't serious enough to warrant ending the trial or tossing out the charges.

In his four-page letter, Thompson said since Tuesday the defense has been reviewing the Pasco police file in the case, obtaining experts and arranging items for expert examination. Thompson met with Detective Scott Warren on Wednesday morning to look at the records and ended up spending much of the day at the police station.

Thompson wrote that he requested photocopies of "several hundred pages of information the defense had never been 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 said he had "concerns of the lack of timeliness on our discovery request" when he learned from Warren on Thursday afternoon that the documents he requested had not yet been copied. He did note that Warren "had other commitments" that day -- testifying in court and taking DNA swabs from a suspect -- in a separate homicide case.

The defense was told at 4 p.m. Thursday that the prosecutor's office "would initiate photocopying."

"As a direct result, the defense believes it is of questionable value to bring a jury in on Monday morning," Thompson wrote.

Jurors have not yet been told when to report back. A hearing is set Monday on the status of the case.

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

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