Johnson City murder case from 2006 heads back to court

Becky Campbell • Mar 25, 2013 at 9:18 AM

Editor's Note: Press Staff Writer Becky Campbell is Tweeting live from the Poncho Delgado murder trial. Follow her @CampbellinCourt.


Two jury panels are scheduled to appear in Washington County Criminal Court today for a murder trial that’s been on the books since 2006.

Poncho Delgado’s trial on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated arson for the May 25, 2006, death of 41-year-old Robert Curtis was most recently scheduled for Feb. 25.

Judge Robert Cupp granted defense attorneys Jim Bowman and Donna Bolton a short delay so they could have forensic tests done on an apparent new piece of evidence that recently surfaced.

Delgado, 44, is accused of stabbing Curtis to death, then setting his East Fairview Avenue home on fire to cover up the killing.

After Curtis’ death, Delgado allegedly told a relative that he killed a man who had been messing with his nephew.

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 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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