On one of numerous dates that Rontarus Washington Jr.’s case was once set to go to retrial, counsel instead met Monday to firm up deadlines and hearings leading up to a trial nearly 10 months away.
Washington has been charged with first-degree murder and aggravated burglary in connection with the November 2014 death of 19-year-old Justina Altamirano Mosso, a woman who lived in the apartment down the hall from his. Almost two years ago, in October 2019, a jury could not come to a verdict in the case, and a retrial has been pending since. (See links at the bottom to previous coverage.)
One of Washington’s team of three defense attorneys, Melanie Morgan, of Morgan Pilate LLC, told Chief Judge James McCabria that they had been in communication with prosecutors to get deadlines and dates set to keep the case on track up until the retrial is set to begin July 18, 2022.
First up, Tricia Rojo Bushnell, executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project, requested a hearing for the judge to consider modifying Washington’s bond conditions.
He was released from the Douglas County jail on July 1, 2020 after more than five years in pretrial custody, thanks to a successful crowdfunding movement raising $50,000 cash plus collateral to bond him out. He’s had an electronic ankle monitor on since then. His attorney said the monitor is burdensome, and Washington has not had trouble making it to court.
Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden told the judge he didn’t think a deadline for a written motion to modify bond would be necessary. That hearing will be at 3 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4.
Dates scheduled beyond next week are as follows:
• Dec. 1, 2021: Deadline for both sides to come to an agreed approach on how to handle any issues with translations. The case involves numerous Spanish-speaking witnesses and a lot of text and social media messages as evidence.
• Dec. 10, 2021: Deadline for defense counsel to decide whether they want to withdraw or move forward and request rulings on any pending motions that Washington’s previous defense team filed.
• Jan. 15, 2022: Deadline for prosecutors to disclose any new or supplemental expert disclosures (for instance, if the state plans to hire a new expert to testify about any of the forensic evidence in the case) to the defense.
• Jan. 28, 2022: A deadline for the prosecutors to respond, depending on what defense counsel decides about previous motions by Dec. 10.
• Feb. 1, 2022: Reciprocal deadline for the defense to disclose any new experts to the prosecutors.
• Feb. 11, 2022: Tentative hearing date set, depending on defense counsel’s Dec. 10 decision about the previous motions and any responses from the state.
• Feb. 15, 2022: Deadline for both sides to submit proposed questionnaires for potential jurors ahead of the next trial to help with the process of jury selection. (In Washington’s first trial in September 2019, jury selection took up the first three days of the four-week-long trial.)
• Feb, 25, 2022: Deadline for both sides to file Daubert motions, which are motions that question the qualifications or findings of an expert who might testify at trial.
• March 1, 2022: Deadline for both sides to disclose any new witnesses or exhibits, and to notify the court of any objections to redactions of audio and video evidence that could be played for the jury.
• March 25, 2022: Deadline for both sides to file responses to any Daubert motions.
• April 15, 2022: Deadline for both sides to file any additional motions in limine (pronounced “lemony”), which are motions trying to prevent certain evidence from being used during the trial.
• April 18-19, 2022: Hearing dates for the Daubert motions and proposed juror questionnaires.
• April 29, 2022: Deadline for both sides to file responses to any new motions in limine.
• May 9-10, 2022: Hearing dates for the motions in limine.
• May 27, 2022: Deadline for both sides to disclose their final lists of witnesses they plan to call and exhibits they intend to use during the trial.
• July 1, 2022: Final pretrial conference.
• July 18, 2022: Jury trial begins.