Judge reschedules trial for 2004 murder, says it will not be rescheduled againPublished at | Updated at
POCATELLO — The trial of a man accused of murdering a woman in 2004 has been rescheduled for October.
District Judge Javier Gabiola heard arguments from Bannock County Prosecutor Stephen Herzog and defense attorney John Andrew before granting the prosecution’s motion to delay the trial once again.
“This will be the last time I continue this matter,” Gabiola said.
RELATED | Judge to decide on motion to reschedule trial of 2004 murder
Brad Scott Compher, 48, had been scheduled to stand trial for the 2004 murder of Nori Jones on April 4. However, Herzog filed a motion to vacate the trial on March 10.
“There is no way” the prosecution would be able to prepare the case in time for the trial, he said in court Thursday morning. With his office short-staffed, Herzog continued, it has been challenging to locate witnesses associated with this 19-year-old case and prepare them for testimony.
Andrew said he understood the staffing issues — the same that affected the public defender’s office last year. But he pointed to Compher having been in jail for nearly a decade, since his 2015 arrest, awaiting trial.
“This matter has been pending for over eight years — Mr. Compher has been incarcerated during that time,” he said.
Andrew also said he believes, if Herzog is not able to locate and prepare his expert witnesses on time, the court should make the prosecution continue the proceedings without them.
Herzog requested the trial be scheduled to resume in September.
After hearing arguments from both sides, Gabiola said he appreciated Compher’s having been in jail without trial for what will soon be nine years. But many of the delays in the proceedings, the judge added, had to do with the determination of Compher’s mental fitness for trial.
Compher was found to be mentally disabled but was not disqualified from a trial.
Gabiola granted Herzog’s motion before asking both attorneys if they expected the trial to take three weeks — as previously planned.
Though both Herzog and Andrew said it could likely be completed in just two weeks, Gabiola decided to set the trial for three weeks, out of “an abundance of caution.”
“If we get done earlier, I’m sure the jury will be happy,” he said.
The trial is now set to start with voir dire — the jury selection process — on Oct. 23. It is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 9.
Andrew also requested he and Herzog be granted access to the jury questionnaire, so a potential motion for a change of venue can be considered.
As he explained, given media coverage of Jones’ murder and the implication of Compher’s involvement, there is some concern about Compher’s ability to receive a fair and unbiased trial in Bannock County. Andrew pointed to extensive news stories and an hour-long episode of the TNT show Cold Justice being devoted to the case.
Andrew said that he would like to examine the questions asked of juries before he would consider requesting the trial to be moved to another county.
Herzog did not argue against Andrew’s requested access to the jury questionnaire.
Gabiola decided to allow both attorneys access to the questionnaire.
The judge also granted Herzog’s motion to withdraw from seeking the death penalty.
As part of the agreement to reschedule the trial, both sides will attempt to mediate – or settle the matter without the need for a jury trial. Mediation meetings are expected to take place in April.
Because he will not consider rescheduling the trial again, Gabiola insisted the attorneys meet with him in court monthly for status conferences — that way any issues that come to light can be handled in a timely manner prior to the trial. Those conferences will begin in early May and run through September.
With the death sentence no longer in consideration, Compher faces a potential life sentence if he is found guilty.