DAYTON — The trial date for a man accused of a 1996 murder in Columbia County has been pushed back once again due to a defense expert’s availability.
Benjamin Orozco, 44, was arrested in Mexico and brought to the county jail in Dayton over two years ago. He’s been awaiting trial since December
The expert — excluded in earlier pretrial maneuvering from testifying but still wanted by defense attorneys to be in court for the whole trial as a consultant — wasn’t available until Aug. 23.
Columbia County Prosecutor Dale Slack said some of his witnesses weren’t available after Aug. 23 so he opposed the defense’s request.
To accommodate them, Judge Scott Wolfram on Tuesday granted a one-day delay, with the trial to now begin Aug. 20. Slack said the trial will likely conclude Aug. 30.
The case is being tried as a self-defense, according to a disclosure filed June 5, Slack said.
“I would assume that the defense wants their expert/consultant to sit at the defense table to aid in crafting their cross-examination questions, which may turn out to rely on some fine point of law,” Slack wrote in an email. “Because of the constitutional rights of defendants, Mr. Orozco is not required to provide us with a statement or any summary of his anticipated testimony at trial, nor are we allowed to interview him prior to trial.
Because of that, we have only a vague idea gleaned from defense pleadings and arguments of what he will actually testify at trial.”
Slack also said he made a final plea offer to the defense with a Thursday deadline, but didn’t receive a response. He said he would not disclose details of the offer, but was prepared for trial.
The prosecution’s witness, David Delarosa, also appeared with an attorney at Tuesday’s hearing and requested to be released from jail, Slack said. Wolfram granted it only if he had a home monitoring device. A device is expected to be available for him this week.
Delarosa was with Orozco during the murder was arrested on a bench warrant to ensure he was present during trial. In turn for testifying, the state granted Delarosa immunity in 1996, Slack said.
Orozco is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in connection with the shootings of Lance Terry and David Eaton on July 7, 1996, near downtown Dayton. Terry died from wounds in his chest and abdomen. Eaton, wounded in the hand and knee, recovered.
Orozco is being held at the Washington State Penitentiary, which occasionally houses Columbia County inmates considered too dangerous to hold in the cramped and general population conditions of the county jail.
Bail is set at $2 million.