Motions hearing dates set in Rontarus Washington Jr.’s case
photo by: Mackenzie Clark
Dates were set Friday for two all-day motions hearings during a short scheduling conference in the case of Rontarus Washington Jr.
Washington, 24, has been charged with first-degree murder and aggravated burglary in connection with the November 2014 death of 19-year-old Justina Altamirano Mosso. The jury hung after Washington’s first four-week-long trial, which began Sept. 9, 2019. The prosecutor immediately requested a retrial, and that is pending.
Chief Judge James McCabria will hear legal arguments from both sides about jury selection, juror questionnaires and a motion to admit bad acts of the victim’s husband, whom the defense has suggested as an alternative suspect, on Oct. 9. McCabria will hear witnesses and evidence regarding the defense motion to dismiss the case due to prosecutorial error and a motion in limine on Nov. 13. Both will begin at 9 a.m. A motion in limine is a pretrial request of the court to rule on the admissibility of certain evidence.
One of Washington’s defense attorneys, Adam Hall, asked McCabria about the potential to set the next jury trial in the case. The courts suspended all jury trials in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, but some are slowly phasing them back in.
Each court must submit an individual plan to hold trials safely before the Kansas Supreme Court will allow them. McCabria said he has submitted a plan that is under review by the departmental justice and the Office of Judicial Administration, and he is hoping to get an answer soon about whether jury trials can proceed in Douglas County District Court.
One trial is scheduled for late October in another division, McCabria said. If it goes as planned, that will be held in the Flory Meeting Hall at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. He said a larger building is also available that could accommodate jury selection in Washington’s case, which previously packed more than 100 potential jurors into the largest available courtroom for close to three days.
Washington, who was recently released on bond after being jailed for five years, briefly addressed a group of supporters Friday outside the courthouse. He thanked the people who have been “fighting for” him. The group included about two dozen people who believe Washington is innocent.
–Editor’s note: This article has been corrected from a previous version.
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