A capital murder case nearing its third anniversary remained without a scheduled trial date Monday in court.
Murder suspect Jose Valenzuela’s new lead defense attorney, Bobbi Falduto, argued her team would need until August 2019 to be prepared for trial.
Special Prosecutor Gary Husk said he was “troubled” by the requested 15-month continuance.
“That extraordinary delay is unwarranted,” he told Pinal County Superior Court Judge Kevin White in court.
Husk said the belated trial is difficult for the family of Tina and Michael Careccia, the couple Valenzuela is accused of murdering and then burying in his yard in 2015, “and, I, quite frankly, can’t blame them,” Husk added.
Husk said prosecution could be ready for trial in six to eight months. However, White’s judicial schedule is clogged with three capital cases around that time.
White suggested trial take place in September of this year, when his docket opens, but Falduto maintained her team needed more time.
“Judge, I’m not going to avow that I can do that, I just know I can’t. It’s right around the corner,” Falduto said.
Falduto cited her recent appointment in the case as one reason for her request for additional time to prepare. In late January, she took over for James Mannato, the former public defender who retired early this year.
Additionally, Falduto revealed she would present a new defense theory in trial.
“Mr. Mannato had the case at a certain posture, and I actually disagreed with his posture, so we have revamped some of the case strategy,” Falduto said.
Monday, Valenzuela’s attorneys motioned the court for access to counseling records of their client’s son, who may have been an eyewitness in the case, Falduto said.
White ordered the records be subject to protective orders and non-disclosure to the public.
Michael and Tina Careccia lived with family members two streets away from the man charged with their murders. (Instagram)
Falduto has until June 8 to submit a memorandum objecting to the state’s request for disclosure of those records. Husk has until June 22 to file a response.
The defense team also argued it would need additional time to interview an out-of-state witness and a medical examiner.
“Our defense team has met about once a week to get me updated and to update everyone else. Everyone’s taken on certain tasks so we are working this as quickly as possible,” Falduto said. “There’s a lot of amount of discovery, and I think some of the experts that we have spoken with are going to be key to putting forth our defense.”
With a September trial not an option, White said his schedule could accommodate a trial date next July.
Nevertheless, the judge held off from affirming a specific date in court April 30. The case is subject to reassignment under a new judge as White takes on a different assignment in the courts July 1 this year.
White said he’s inclined to keep the case, but he will consult with the schedules of the criminal judge and presiding judge in the event the case is handed over.
Valenzuela’s next hearing in court will be June 25 at 3 p.m.