The trial for the five people accused of murdering 15-year-old Dystiny Myers of Santa Maria will be next September, nearly two years after the teen was killed somewhere between Nipomo and Santa Margarita. San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Barry LaBarbera on Monday set the trial for Sept. 10, 2012.
The prosecutor had pushed for an earlier date of March 1. Defense attorneys for Ty Michael Hill of Santa Maria, hoping to prolong the trial’s start, asked for a date about 18 months from now.
San Luis Obispo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Timothy Covello said that he’d object to any further delay in the start of the trial past Sept. 10, 2012.
Hill’s attorneys said their investigative and legal work would involve preparing a time-consuming defense against a possible death penalty sentence as well as a murder charge. Hill is the only one of the five facing the death penalty.
Myers was believed to have been killed somewhere between Nipomo and Santa Margarita, where her body was found dumped and burned in a remote grass field on Sept. 26, 2010.
Pre-trial hearings are expected to include arguments about whether the jury can hear certain key evidence.
One of Hill’s defense attorneys, William McLennan, argued Monday that the death penalty should be dropped against his client.
LaBarbera said he’d allow Hill’s lawyers their new argument and a written response from Covello. But he said he’d likely rule against dropping the death penalty.
McLennan argued in court that the special circumstances charged against Hill, which are required for the death penalty, are unconstitutional.
Those circumstances include kidnapping and torture. McLennan’s argument in court Monday focused on whether the alleged kidnapping might have involved incidental transportation involving Myers instead of an intended kidnapping.
Covello referenced arguments that he had made when Hill’s attorneys sought to get the death penalty dropped in July in a motion to dismiss the case. Covello previously said the facts of the case as presented at a preliminary hearing support the death penalty charges against Hill.
The others charged with murder in the case include Jason Adam Greenwell, Frank Jacob York and Rhonda Maye Wisto, all of Nipomo, and Cody Lane Miller of Fresno.
Each has pleaded not guilty. All are in custody in San Luis Obispo County Jail, where they are being held without bail.