SPOKANE -- Vicente Ruiz met with his attorneys in jail Tuesday to decide if he will take the stand today in his murder trial.
Ruiz, 46, is accused of gunning down six men inside Medina's Body Shop in Pasco in 1987.
The trial on five counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder was moved to Spokane County because of media coverage.
The defense has said it is a case of mistaken identity and suggested Tuesday it was either one of his two brothers or two cousins who have a similar appearance and lived in the Tri-Cities 23 years ago.
Jurors were sent home Tuesday morning without going into court because the defense was unable to get witnesses to Spokane.
"Our best efforts have left us without any witnesses," defense attorney Bob Thompson said in apologizing to the court for the delay.
He added that the defense lawyers were looking at possibly traveling to the Tri-Cities on Tuesday night to get one person who has no means of transportation.
The court already had planned to be in recess Tuesday afternoon so Ruiz's lawyers could meet with him in jail to talk about how the trial is progressing and the possibility of him taking the stand.
The defense needed to schedule a two-hour window during business hours for face-to-face time with their client, instead of talking to him through a glass partition.
Thompson said they are counting on five more witnesses, "and then we have our client, who may testify."
He said he and co-counsel, Kevin Holt and Peter Connick, expect to complete their case by this afternoon.
Five men died that night inside the garage, and the lone survivor identified Ruiz as one of the two shooters. The second shooter, convicted killer Pedro Mendez-Reyna, also said his cousin Ruiz was with him.
But Ruiz maintains his innocence, and told investigators after his return to the United States in 2007 that it was coincidental he left for a scheduled vacation to Mexico the same night as the shooting.
Holt told the court Tuesday there was "a lot of confusion here" in keeping the relatives straight given their looks, particularly their eyes.
"That seems to be a distinctive family feature here that identification, or misidentification, is being based on," Holt said, in arguing to allow testimony from a witness about how she saw Ruiz's picture in the Tri-City Herald and thought it was one of his brothers because of the similarity in the eyes.
Judge Cameron Mitchell said he will allow the witness -- a woman who happened to be called as a prospective juror in Ruiz's second trial -- to talk about it because the defense case is questioning identification.
The other witnesses include Ruiz's sister, who is traveling from California. She is supposed to talk about how Ruiz traveled to Mexico in October 1987 for her quinceaera.
Ruiz's first two trials in Franklin County Superior Court ended in mistrials. This one started Nov. 9 for jury selection, with the first witness called Nov. 17.
* Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; email@example.com