No delay for Mostrong trial

jury selection to begin May 29

May 22, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Superior Court Judge Matias Contreras denied a motion to delay the trial of Blake Mostrong, the El Centro man charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Oct. 7 death of an Alpine girl.

Jury selection will start May 29.

El Centro-area attorney Robert Espinosa, representing Mostrong, filed a motion to have the trial delayed over concern prosecutors have DNA-related evidence that had not been shared with him.

Espinosa argued he had a right to see such evidence. The delay he sought was to give him time to review such evidence.

During the hearing Deputy District Attorney Wayne Robinson announced he would not use the DNA evidence.

Espinosa said based on that, he most likely will not file a writ of mandate to appeal Contreras' decision.

Espinosa said he will focus his attention on preparing for the May 29 start of jury selection.

He said he is comfortable with the trial moving forward, but he added he would like to have more information on the DNA evidence.


Assistant District Attorney Joe Beard said this morning the decision was made to not use the evidence because it is not needed to prove the facts of the case.

"It was cumulative evidence," he said, adding the DA's Office has other evidence.

Beard said the evidence that will not be used was collected from the vehicle Mostrong was reportedly driving at the time of the accident. He said the evidence is "susceptible to DNA analysis."

Mostrong was taken into custody a day after the Oct. 7 accident in which the vehicle he was driving struck a golf cart, killing 17-year-old Michelle Marie Grady.

Michelle was struck on Wheeler Road in western Imperial County in the early morning hours. She reportedly was standing just outside the cart, which had stopped on the road after it had run out of gas.

Mostrong was reportedly driving from a party with friends when his van struck the golf cart.

Investigators have alleged Mostrong fled and did not turn himself into authorities until 4 the next afternoon. He was given a blood-alcohol test and then was arrested.

Espinosa said he thinks the trial will be lengthy, which could make it difficult to find jurors.

Already there has been a war of words in the case as Espinosa during another recent hearing claimed his client was being harassed by the stepmother of Michelle.

In reponse, Robinson asked that the judge institute a gag order on the case that would prevent either side from talking to the media.

On Espinosa's claim of harassment, Contreras said he had not seen it but added he would not put up with any such action in court.

Contreras denied the gag order request, but added Robinson could file a formal request in writing.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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