Union-Bulletin Court Report

DAYTON — The trial for a man accused of a 1996 murder in Columbia County has been postponed to August.

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 2016.

Prosecutors said the trial date has been moved from July to Aug. 12-23 because the defense didn’t provide discovery they planned to use at trial until Wednesday, including witness statements and lists, physical evidence, expert reports and more.

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 several hours later in a Walla Walla hospital from gunshot wounds in the chest and abdomen. Eaton, wounded in the hand and knee, recovered.

The court initially set Orozco’s trial for March 6, 2017, but medical issues and difficulties related to investigating a 23-year-old homicide case have delayed proceedings several times. Orozco’s trial was scheduled to begin Jan. 28. Then it was continued to March 11. Columbia County Prosecuting Attorney C. Dale Slack said the state was ready for trial at that time.

The proceedings were rescheduled at a readiness trial in March, Slack said, because the defense needed more time to get an expert witness. Prosecutors requested a cutoff date of May 8 for discovery, so all evidence was to be exchanged by then.

At a hearing Wednesday, prosecutors moved “to have any non-disclosed evidence excluded from use at trial; however, case law is clear that exclusion is a last resort for failure to disclose, and instead the court continued the case for one month so that the defense can completely disclose their evidence, and our office can review and evaluate that evidence,” according to a release from Slack.

“The only thing worse than another continuance would be trying the case again after a guilty verdict because it was overturned by the court of appeals,” Slack wrote in an email.

After the 1996 shooting, court records state Orozco fled the country and was wanted by law enforcement until his arrest at the end of 2016.

He 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 local jail. Bail is set at $2 million.

Emily Thornton can be reached at emilythornton@wwub.com or 509-526-8325.

Emily Thornton covers courts and emergency services, as well as other various stories. She has been in the newspaper industry off and on since roughly 1999 and lived primarily on the West Coast, but also Florida and Europe.

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