Three weeks after a 20-year-old man was arrested for a gang-related killing outside a Pasco grocery store, the question remains: Who is representing him?
A confused Chris Pedroza-DeSantiago appeared Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court, repeating earlier comments that he thought two defense attorneys were on the case together.
But Deputy Prosecutor Dave Corkrum and Judge Cameron Mitchell noted that a notice of appearance has not been submitted by any attorney in the first-degree murder case.
Attorney Scott Johnson initially was appointed by the bicounty Office of Public Defense as part of his contract to handle homicide cases. Yet, Johnson — who was in the courtroom Tuesday on another case — said the last he had heard, attorney Norma Rodriguez was hired to represent Pedroza-DeSantiago.
Rodriguez attended a hearing earlier this month and said Pedroza-DeSantiago’s family was trying to hire her, and at that time wanted a one-week delay of his arraignment. However, on May 19, Rodriguez informed the court that she had not been retained.
Pedroza-DeSantiago is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and first-degree unlawful possession of a gun. His trial is set for July 15.
He allegedly used a .40-caliber pistol to shoot Juan C. Melgoza on Feb. 4 in the Fiesta Foods parking lot. The two men had been in an argument minutes before because Melgoza, 42, was wearing a rival gang color, according to court documents.
Judge Alex Ekstrom, who presided over previous court hearings, said he can’t be the judge on Pedroza-DeSantiago’s case if Johnson is his attorney. Ekstrom has recused himself from hearing any of Johnson’s cases because the two are longtime friends.
Pedroza-DeSantiago told Judge Mitchell on Tuesday that he needs two lawyers because it is a murder case. But Johnson told the judge, “It’s not going to be (Rodriguez) and I at the same time.”
Corkrum asked for another one-week delay for the issue to be resolved. In the meantime, Johnson said he will let the indigent defense coordinator Eric Hsu know to assign someone else “because clearly he needs an attorney.”
“I guess whoever is representing Mr. Pedroza-DeSantiago, please enter a notice of appearance, whoever that is going to be,” said Mitchell.
Pedroza-DeSantiago is being held in the Franklin County jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.