Murder trial again delayed

Becky Campbell • Feb 22, 2013 at 9:51 PM

It’s been nearly seven years since a Johnson City man’s body, riddled with stab wounds, was found inside his burned home on East Fairview Avenue, but the murder trial for a man charged with the death has met another delay.

Poncho Delgado, 44, is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated arson for the May 25, 2006, death of 41-year-old Robert Curtis. Delgado allegedly told a relative that he killed a man who had been messing with his nephew.

Delgado’s trial was scheduled to begin Monday, but after a brief hearing Friday, Criminal Court Judge Robert Cupp reset the trial for March 25.

Defense attorneys Jim Bowman and Donna Bolton sought the delay for DNA testing on an apparent new piece of evidence that has recently surfaced.

It’s a tangled case that’s already been to trial once — in 2008 — and wrought with delays caused by Delgado’s health, legal issues, lost witnesses and a mistrial.

Delgado’s first trial lasted only a day because Cupp fell ill that night and ended up in the hospital for several days. Months later, the judge eventually declared a mistrial after confusion about whether he officially had released the jury. Bowman had argued that his client would be subjected to double jeopardy if the state retried him.

Bowman filed an interlocutory appeal with the Court of Criminal Appeals on the mistrial issue. An interlocutory appeal means a legal issue arose prior to the case getting completed in state court that required further review by a higher court.

The CCA rejected Bowman’s argument and ruled Delgado could legally face trial again. That was in 2010 and by then Delgado’s health declined to the point he was unable to withstand day after day in court.

After months of treatment and care at the DeBerry Special Needs Facility, a state prison for inmates with health problems, Delgado’s health was back on track.

There was a trial scheduled in late 2012, but two key state witnesses were missing. Assistant District Attorney General Dennis Brooks asked for a continuance and Cupp set the trial for Feb. 25.

Even with this newest delay for the defense, Cupp only allowed one month for the DNA testing to be completed.

Delgado has been in custody since his arrest in 2006. If convicted of first-degree murder he faces life in prison.

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