Prosecutors in the trial of five people charged with the murder of 15-year-old Dystiny Myers said Tuesday they remain concerned that the defense might disturb evidence.
But Judge Barry LaBarbera expressed little patience with the prospect of tailoring guidelines for how the attorneys, who represent one man facing the death penalty, may conduct analysis of the materials.
The defense team representing Ty Michael Hill hasn’t yet had access to the evidence, which the prosecution has been able to test and which includes some evidence frozen to preserve biological matter.
LaBarbera said he wants to move the case along to reach a trial date and even suggested “using an ice cream truck” after prosecutors voiced concern about whether the items could thaw on a drive to a laboratory in the Bay Area that Hill’s attorneys plan to use.
Myers’ body was found brutally beaten and burned in a field in Santa Margarita in September 2010.
The trial was originally scheduled to start in August, but the projected date is now sometime in January. LaBarbera has said he wants to stay on track with that timeline.
In addition to Hill of Santa Maria, co-defendants Frank Jacob York, Rhonda Maye Wisto and Jason Adam Greenwell, all of Nipomo, and Cody Lane Miller of Fresno each have pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with the killing. Only Hill is charged with the death penalty.
The prosecution and Hill’s attorneys have battled for weeks over details of access to the evidence.
The physical evidence includes seven items that have been frozen for preservation, including shovels, the bed liner of a truck and a duffel bag. Biological matter might include blood or other bodily fluids.
Prosecutors Cheryl Wolcott and Tim Covello argued during the hearing that LaBarbera should create guidelines that detail when and how the evidence can be touched, including marking the “chain of custody” on the outside of evidence bags in writing.
Wolcott also said any evidence that’s destroyed or tampered with could affect the prosecution’s further investigation after the defense is finished with it.
Hill’s attorneys, Bill McLennan and Thomas Allen, said they’re willing to follow all procedural laws on testing the evidence, and they opposed any additional orders on how to conduct their work.
LaBarbera responded that he didn’t plan to file any new order, but on Friday at 10 a.m. the lawyers will discuss crafting language on how to share information about any evidence that’s destroyed. As an example, prosecutors said a speck of blood might be wiped off a shovel, leaving no evidence behind.
But LaBarbera said in court that the District Attorney’s Office has had the chance to conduct the analysis it should need for the case before turning over the evidence to the defense.