We often grumble about the wheels of justice turning slowly, the more cynical resigned to say the wheels have fallen off the cart all together.
But keep in mind the wheels have a long journey, and there are a lot of people riding the cart: lawyers, prosecutors, a judge, and, oh yeah, the defendant, and the victim–or in murder cases, the victim’s family.
In this regard, the case of Gregorio Luna Luna is pretty typical.
Pasco Police arrested Luna Luna more than a year ago for murder. His trial, tentatively set for early fall, now may not get underway until November, and that could be pushing it. The way things are going, jury summons may not go out until after New Year’s.
That’s because his defense attorneys say they can’t line up an expert witness. Shelly Ajax says the private psychiatrist she retained has left the country to deal with a family emergency and won’t return until October.
Does that mean everything’s on hold until then?
Superior Court Judge Robert Swisher told the public defender to shop around for another doctor.
“The court must give time to find the right expert, but not unlimited time,” Swisher said. “This can’t go on indefinitely.”
Deputy prosecutor Anita Petra says it’s frustrating. “The defense has had a long time to line up its experts,” Petra told the judge. Ajax responded, “The state doesn’t understand that we have to go around and find doctors, we can’t just send them (defendants) to Eastern (State Hospital).”
Psychiatrists from Eastern State Hospital last month determined Luna Luna mentally fit to stand trial. Earlier this summer, Swisher scolded both the defense and the deputy prosecutor when the state doctors had yet to examine Luna Luna. “This has got to be a priority,” Swisher said at the time.
Luna Luna is accused of stabbing to death his former girlfriend during an argument over their young son. Prosecutors say a month earlier the INS had deported Luna Luna to Mexico.