What if a murder trial was scheduled to begin in a couple of weeks and the defendant refused to agree to a delay even though his attorney would not be available then?
“I don’t see how that’s going to happen unless Mr. Douglas represents himself, because Mr. McMahon is not going to be here,” deputy Ada County Prosecutor Shelley Akamatsu told a judge Monday.
John C. Douglas, 45, of Reading, Pa., accused in the May 2014 shooting deaths of Boise residents Travontae Calloway, 27, and Elliott Bailey, 28, this week faced that dilemma.
Under Idaho law, a criminal defendant is entitled to go to trial within six months of when formal charges are brought in court. The accused must agree to any delay that pushes the trial start beyond that.
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The problem in Douglas’ case is that his attorney, Philadelphia lawyer Jack McMahon is scheduled to be in trial on another case in his hometown on Aug. 10, when Douglas’ trial on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder was set to begin. McMahon tried to convince his client to agree to a trial date in January, but Douglas wasn’t willing to waive his right to a speedy trial.
“I’ve discussed that with him. As I’ve said, I agree with Mr. McMahon that it would be in his best interests to do that, but at this point he’s not willing to do that,” said Mark Manweiler, a Boise attorney who is assisting in Douglas’ defense.
Fourth District Judge Sam Hoagland said Douglas didn’t have much choice.
“The bottom line is that he has a constitutional right to an attorney. He has the constitutional right to a speedy trial. But it doesn’t look like you can have both at the same time, at least on Aug. 10,” Hoagland said.
McMahon, who took part in the hearing by telephone, asked Hoagland to speak with his client alone. Following a 15-minute recess, McMahon said Douglas would agree to a delay.
Hoagland reset the expected five-week trial for Douglas and co-defendant Anthony J. Robins Jr., 34, for Jan. 19. Robins, from Fremont, Calif., is accused of ordering a hit on Calloway and Bailey after they allegedly stole marijuana belonging to him. Jeanette Juraska was injured after being shot in the May 9, 2014, attack at the two-story apartment she shared with Calloway, her boyfriend, at 2178 S. Orchard St.
Robins had earlier asked for the delay, to give his legal team more time to prepare.
“It’s a complicated case involving very serious charges,” said Boise attorney Scott McKay, who represents Robins along with Brian McMonagle of Philadelphia.
Hoagland has not yet taken up a motion from Robins asking that his trial on two counts of aiding and abetting first-degree murder and aiding and abetting first-degree attempted murder be separated from Douglas’ trial.
Douglas reportedly wrote a letter from the Ada County Jail implicating both men in the murders. Robins fears that he will be unfairly prejudiced if the letter is introduced into evidence during a joint trial.
The letter was turned over to prosecutors by an unnamed attorney representing a different inmate at the jail. It has not been revealed when the letter was written, how the attorney’s client got ahold of it or whether that inmate has any connection to the case.
A pretrial conference has been scheduled for Dec. 14.
Hoagland said he plans to call 120 potential jurors for questioning in selecting a panel of 12 jurors and two alternates.