McStay Family Hearing and Trial Updates People VS Charles Chase Ray Merritt trial
Below are updates and more information about the hearing and trial regarding the McStay family trial. I will continue to update this as more information comes in. Please note the information is listed in a reverse chronological order.
6/23/17 – July 30, 2018 has been stated as the date for the start of the trial. When that time approaches there will be more updates to this page to post what is happening with the trial.
6/4/18 – T Mobile Contempt Hearing June 15, 2018
4/6/18 – Per Patrick McStay “DELAYED AGAIN – As thought the defense is now filing for Motions to Exclude evidence. However this is the longest time for waiving the time. It is 4 months around 129 days. Not sure but that seems to be beyond the normal time allowed. If this is followed then we wouldn’t go to trial till August 2018. That’s months beyond the possible June or July as believed at the last hearing. Delay, delay, delay! Now watch the defense will have hearing after hearing attempting each time to exclude evidence.Motion Hearing scheduled for 5/4/2018 at 8:30 AM- Motion to exclude evidence. Time Waived to 8/13/2018. ”
1/29/18 Well, let’s try it again. The trial has been set for Feb 23.
A TRO was filed because Chase had more files than is allowed in his cell. Judge Smith ruled in Merritt’s favor allowing him more than jail policy allows.
It’s been almost a year, but it looks like the trial will finally begin in January 2018. Meantime, today the defense has released information that will shock many of you They state they believe that Summer was raped before she died.
The San Bernadino Sun stated:
McGee noted that investigators submitted a DNA analysis request form to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s Forensic Biology Unit to “help identify involved parties and verify involved parties.” He also referenced an excerpt from page three of the form, which revealed something that has not been disclosed by investigators to date: they believe Summer McStay had been raped before she was killed.
“The autopsy revealed all four victims died from blunt force trauma to their heads. The sledge hammer is the likely murder weapon. Investigators believe Summer was raped at the time as her pants were in the grave near her head, and her panties were in the pants as (if) they were pulled off together,” according to the motion. There were also incisions in her bra that lead investigators to believe it was cut off, the motion states.
I have not done as much updating as I did before, as each hearing that comes up moves the case forward minimally, if at all. Another case in San Bernardino, referred to as the Colonies trial is superseding the McStay case. It will go forward first before the McStay case. The only thing really that has come up lately is the attorney asking the Judge to okay a warrant so records can be gotten. It does not specify from whom. The other case will probably go on till spring if not even summer of 2017 before it is finished. At that time, the McStay case should finally begin. Right now the next court hearing is set for Jan. 3, 2017, but it is just another of many endless hearings, and no trial date.
UPDATE 10/21/16 Next Hearing November 4, 2016 – Merritt’s attorney subpoenaed Western Towing for records. The company has not responded.
UPDATE 7/9/16 – Another delay in the case till July 18. Defense attorneys filed a motion Friday in San Bernardino Superior Court requesting that AT&T be compelled to produce records, so says the SB Sun. Which seems to imply that AT&T is not complying to the attorney’s request. But that may not be the case. First, subscriber info that goes back farther than three years can take months to produce, it’s a laborious job and the records are kept elsewhere. The attorneys said they have asked three times and as recent as April, and have not received them. I don’t believe AT&T is stonewalling, but just can’t comply as quickly as the attorney have wanted. Also, we don’t even know if the attorney requested them to be exigent.
Secondly a subpoena is usually all that is needed to get subscriber information, but in some circumstances AT&T will require a court order. I am wondering if the attorneys are asking for the court to request the information NOT because AT&T is stonewalling as much as since this is a high-profile case, AT&T requested a court order.
UPDATE 6/12/16 – Pretrial date is now September 6, 2016. The hearing was continued at the Defenses request until July 8th.
UPDATE 5/5/16 – There was a hearing on April 29 and prosecutors are saying the Merritt’s former court-appointed investigator has physical evidence that he has not turned over. The prosecution and the defense has what is called a discovery process where they turn over everything they have. If they don’t it can’t be presented in court later, or it can but there has to be a good explanation why it wasn’t provided before.
On Thursday, May 5 there was another hearing, but this one appears to be sealed as there has been no word on what is going on from the public or media. Farrell is supposed to be there and answer why he has not turned over anything that he had worked on in the McStay case. There is also supposed to be physical evidence that Farrell has according to the prosecution. What that evidence may be and how they know that has not been explained.
According to reporter Joe Nelson:
“Joe Nelson @SBcountyNow · 4m4 minutes ago
Evidentiary hearing today for Charles #ChaseMerritt in #McStay family murder case was continued until June 3.”
UPDATE 3/23/16 – Attorney’s Maline and McGee were granted a continuance. Next hearing set for April 29, 2016
UPDATE 3/4/16 – Merritt has hired new legal counsel, after opting in February to represent himself a second time, according to Superior Court of San Bernardino County spokesman Dennis Smith. Charles Ray Merritt, 58, hired Riverside-based attorneys Rajan Maline andJames McGee II. Judge Smith stated, “You’re both on notice that you’re kind-of on for the duration at this point.”
UPDATE 2/11/16 – Trial date vacated and waiver to May 25, 2016. Hearing set for Feb. 25, 2016 On hiring of counsel. Discover has been recovered from former counsel Mettias and retained by David Ferrell until new counsel in place.
UPDATE 2/2/16 – Merritt will be representing himself again. From the court hearing transcript today: COURT ORDERS APPOINTMENT OF DAVID FARRELL AS INVESTIGATOR SHALL REMAIN IN EFFECT.
COURT ORDERS THE METTIAS LAW FIRM RELEASE ALL DISCOVERY INCLUDING ALL INVESTIGATIVE AND EXPERT REPORTS TO DEFENDANT THROUGH HIS INVESTIGATOR DAVID FARRELL ON OR BEFORE 2/11/16.
TRIAL READINESS SET FOR 03/25/2016 AT 8:30 IN DEPARTMENT S21.
JURY TRIAL SET FOR 03/28/2016 AT 9:30 IN DEPARTMENT S21; ESTIMATED 0 DAYS.
PRETRIAL SET FOR 03/04/2016 AT 8:33 IN DEPARTMENT %%X %%.
DISPO/RESET HEARING SET ON 02/11/2016 AT 8:33 IN DEPT S21
DEFENDANT ORDERED TO APPEAR ON HEARING DATE.
TIME WAIVER PREVIOUSLY GIVEN.
TIME WAIVED TO 04/04/2016.
SET LAST DATE FOR TRIAL TO 04/04/2016.
UPDATE: 1/21/15 – Merritt will need another attorney. On Friday, Jan. 15, Merritt would not waive his right to a speedy trial which his defense team thought he was going to do, so they asked to be dismissed from representing him. “This was totally unanticipated,” Maline, one of the attorneys from Mattias’ law firm said. “(Merritt) wants to not waste time and put it to trial at the end of April, but there’s too much work to be done.” During the hearing today the judge granted the head attorney Jimmy Mattias the dismissal. Next hearing set will be Jan. 26, to get Merritt another attorney.
UPDATE: 1/3/15 – No set date for trial yet. Next hearing is a pre-trial hearing set for January 15, 2016 at 8:30am in Dept. S21A. Defendant ordered to appear. Time waived for trial; plus 60 days. Time waived to March 15, 2016; set last date for trial to March 15, 2016.
UPDATE: 12/8/15 – Pretrial has been set for Dec 17 at 8:30 in Dept. S21. Defendant ordered to appear.
UPDATE 11/6/15 – UPDATE – New Hearing for Chase Merritt set for December 8, 2015 Defense request delay to review case documents.
UPDATE 10/2715 – New hearing, pre-trial set for 11/6/15 at 8:30 in Dept. S21A, defendant ordered to appear. Time Waived to 1/5/2016
10/2/15 – Merritt was in San Bernardino Superior Court on Friday morning and another pretrial hearing was set for Nov. 6.
UPDATE 9/4/15 – The trial was delayed again when the defense asked the judge for funding for expert witnesses. Attorney Rajan Maline told Judge Michael A. Smith that four motions had been filed with another judge requesting the funding and he requested the next hearing be scheduled for Oct. 2, 2015. I will keep everyone updated but I don’t believe the trial will begin till 2016. (Looks more like 2017).
UPDATE: 8/19/15 – Next court date is Sept. 7. Also, Mettias has “hired” a PR firm to help handle the negative publicity received through the media, he said on Monday.
I feel that Mettias might have gotten it to some trouble for posts on Twitter from the courts. Sure he said he was doing it to help Merritt’s case, but I think he was doing it to help himself to some publicity. So how do you keep the publicity going without doing it yourself and keep from getting in trouble. Well, you hire a PR firm to do it for you. That way you can’t get in trouble for doing anything wrong and you still get your name out there in the public. I mean think about it. When in the last time you heard of an attorney going to social media to talk about their case? You don’t.
UPDATE: 7/16/15 – The defense has asked a San Bernardino judge to dismiss the charges on technical grounds. The defense is saying that there has been “an obvious and blatant contradiction to the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing.” Evidently, the prosecutors’ statement alleges the murder happened in Fallbrook (San Diego County) where the charges stated the murder happened in San Bernardino County. The prosecution declares this information “hinders the Defendant’s ability to prepare and present his defense.”
Excuse me while I SMH.
State law allows a case to be tried either in the county where a body is found or where the victim was killed, so there is no bearing to dismiss the charges on technical grounds. Either the defense team is extremely inexperienced or is grasping at straws to bring up a non issue. To use it as an excuse to not be able to prepare a defense is sad. An experienced defense team would not bother nor stoop to such as they know it would be a waste of time. They instead would be concentrating on proving innocence instead of trying to find a loophole. Oh, wait. Maybe that explains it.
UPDATE: 7/1/15 – Warrants released and prosecutors will seek the death penalty:
A synopsis of what the search warrants said. Quotes are directly from the search warrant:
Feb. 20, 2014, Det Avila received DNA analysis result report. Merritt’s DNA was collected by Det. Troy DuGal via buccall swab. The DNA swabs show a match with Merritt on the steering wheel, 4 x 4 shifter and radio/AC control panel. When Merritt was interviewed by SDCS he stated he was last in the McStay Trooper 6 weeks prior to their disappearance and he sat in the front passenger seat and never drove the Trooper. At that time, investigators noticed a fresh injury to his hand that he said he cut on sheet metal. It was also noted that Merritt spoke of the McStay’s in the past tense, and the investigators ascertained that Merritt knew they were deceased.
Subsequent interview Merrit stated he did not like Summer and he did not like Kavanaugh and said, “If I were ever going to commit murder, it would be with him.” referring to Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh stated Joseph lent Merritt $30,000 to pay a gambling debt and that Joseph planned to fire Merritt. He also had over $20,000 in unpaid taxes.
McGyver McCargar stated he tried to contact Summer on Feb. 4, 2010 and Feb 5, 2010 and could not reach her. On Feb. 17, 2010 he went to the McStay home per Susan Blake’s request as she did not want to be alone there and she cleaned the residence. This was prior to SDSO obtaining a search warrant for the home. McCargar noticed a missing futon cover in the dining/family room, dried paint in one of the paint trays, and clothes all over the upstairs bedroom. His opinion was that Joseph would not leave that type of mess.
The investigators went over the digital photographs taken during the search warrant and could not find a crime scene location inside the home. The futon cover was shown as missing in a photograph. Reviewing photos of the family they knew there was a cream-colored cloth on the futon at one time, and four matching pillows, which were missing at time of the search warrant. Another photo showed a terry cloth robe hanging in the master bathroom and an empty hook next to the hanging robe consistent with the location of the terry cloth found with Summer at her grave. The blanket used to wrap Joseph was compared to the futon cover in the photos and appeared to be the same. The paint stain on Summer’s bra are consistent with her laying on her side when the paint dripped and her being found with a robe without a shirt, consistent with her having the robe on at the time of the paint spilling on her. This indicates the crime scene occurred at the residence.
“One of the attempted ways to clean a scene is to paint over the blood stains, though a correct forensic processing of the crime scene would still show the blood stain, the blood stain would not be visible to the naked eye. The blood stain could also be detected by forensic experts years after it was painted over.”
“Merritt was in a position to access the cellular telephone tower northeast of the McStay family gravesite on Feb. 6, 2010, two days after the family disappeared. Merritt made six telephone calls (from 909-374-0102 which was disconnected after the family went missing) while in the area between 1046 hours and 1330 hours. Four of the six calls Merritt made were to 909-226-1197.”
On page 6 of 6 of doc 14-1283 it says 4 of the 6 calls Merritt made were to 909-226-1197 and then on page 6 of 6 of doc 14-1297 is says, 4 of the 6 calls Merritt made were to 909-374-8951. (Both are registered to Catherine Jarvis, Merritt’s girlfriend.)
Search warrants states “The phone records show conflicting information as to Merritt’s and Jarvis’ whereabouts per their statements.” Does that mean that Jarvis was lying?
On Feb 8, 2010, the internet to the computer was accessed and the address of 17037 Brookhurst Street, in the City of Fountain Valley was revealed. It was determined the location had five suites, one belonged to a former customer of EIP and the other was a T-Mobile service center. Did someone go into that service center in order to gain access to the McStay’s cell phones?
The McStay Quickbook account were assessed Feb. 2, Feb. 4, Feb. 5 and Feb. 8, 2010. Checks were pretend from McStay’s Quickbook account and endorsed to Charles Merritt. and were accessed remotely through a different computer. On Feb. 9, 2010, McStay’s Quickbooks was logged into and Merritt made a call to Intuit, where Merritt identified himself as McStay and requested the account be closed and records deleted. The calls corresponded to records on Merritt’s cell phone.
What we do know so far: During a preliminary hearing in June 2015 new information came out – The family was “bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer and buried in shallow graves with Summer and Gianni found in ‘Grave B,’ and Joseph and Joseph Jr in ;Grave a’. None of the family were wearing shoes. The murder weapon was a 3-pound Stanley sledgehammer that investigators believe came from the McStay home. The family’s heads had been smashed multiple times with the weapon and in particular Ginani’s as many as seven times. Joseph had a broken leg and a rib and he was tied with an extension cord and wrapped in a futon cover that is believed to have come from their home. Summer was wearing to top and her bra had spattered paint on it, maybe suggesting she was painting the home shortly before she died. Cans of paint were found in the home that matched what was on her bra. When McStay’s body was recovered he was found to have a key to a Chateau lock on the key ring in his pocket and a second lose key in his pocket. Merritt did a transaction on April 9, 2010 at AMS Mini Storage in Pomona that sold Chateau locks. Charles “Chase” Merritt’s DNA was found on the steering wheel and gear shift of the McStay’s Isuzu. He stated to investigators he never drove that truck.
“Muir (Merritt’s girlfriend in 2012) stated to her best friend Oglesby that Merritt told her about his involvement (in the investigation of the McStay’s) many times and the story was always the same. The rest has been redacted.
Checks dates Feb. 2, 2010, for $2,495.00, three checks dated Feb 4, 2010 for $4,5000 and $6,5000 and $2,350 and were written after Feb. 4, 2010 and backdated to Feb. 4 and deleted. The signature did was not consistent with Joseph’s signature.
Merritt told the SDSO that he had six blank checks and used the checks to pay bill for jobs completed, and he signed Joseph’s name on three checks.
UPDATE 6/29/15 – District Attorney Mike Ramos filed notice in San Bernardino County Superior Court that his office will seek the death penalty in the case of Charles Ray Merritt.
Posted by Mike Mcstay: “Chase Merritt’s cell tower ping and cell phone records of 6 calls made from the grave site Feb 6, 2010. Exhibits released to the public from Judge Smith produced by FBI analyst. Chase’ cell phone was off other times, he just wasn’t smart enough this time.”
UPDATE 6/24/15 – Many were hoping the search warrants would be unsealed today, but they were not. There is a possibility they may be released on July 1. Defense attorney Jimmy Mettias may ask for a change of venue because of the publicity surrounding this case. Prosecutor Sean Daugherty says he hasn’t decided if death penalty will be sought.
The Jury trial has been set for 8/10.
UPDATE: 6/16/15 – On the Jon and Ken show on KFI 640 AM Steve Gregory was there at the trial and said he was sitting very near Merritt and “Chase had a golf pencil and he was making notes and doodled and fidget on paper.” At one point he made eye contact with Gregory and looked directly at him. He said the most telling to him was when the detective were describing the burial site….one of the child’s bones was beneath the mother. The child had a diaper on….Merritt’s face went completely red and he put his head in his hands.
Gregory said that to him, Merritt had a “cocky attitude.”
Regarding the Quickbooks, Gregory was able to provide more information about that: How was Merritt allegedly able to access Joseph account?
It was done by creating a vendor to the existing account named “charles merritt, all in lower case,” which give administrative capabilities, according to the detectives. Only the one account was used to cut checks on, but the secondary account had check activity around Feb. 2, 4 and 5th in 2010. This check would be printed to charles merritt in lower case and in the memo would be “balance sa 2001,” and then later allegedly Merritt went back and deleted the record. Checks totaling $21,858 were written on Joseph McStay’s online QuickBooks business account under the newly created vendor “charlesmerritt.”
Judge Michael Smith announce the evidence in
#McStay is sufficient to stand trial for Chase Merritt. Trial to begin June 24, 2015.
PRELIMINARY UPDATE 6/15/15 – Afternoon: The Trooper that was said to be seen leaving the McStay home on Feb. 4 was NOT THEIR CAR, said detectives during the preliminary trial this afternoon. The car seen in the surveillance video leaving the home that evening has been ruled out to be the Isuzu Trooper. The Trooper was excluded because the vehicle in the video had a muffler on the wrong side and reflectors not present.
Feb 2, 2010 Chase Merritt’s name added to Joseph’s Quickbooks account, but not from his computer. Someone wrote checks to Merritt from Joseph’s account then deleted it. Merritt cashed a $2,495 check, but didn’t come from Joseph’s computer. On Feb 9, someone called quick books from Merritt’s cell phone, said they were Joey and tried to delete the account.
Det. Daniel Hanke of SB homicide said between Feb. 1-4, more than $11,000 in checks were written to Merritt from Joseph McStay’s Quickbook account. Merritt did not deny backdating the checks written on QuickBooks account, but offered no explanation. The phone number of the man who called QuickBooks to delete the McStay accounts was Merritt’s, Hanke said. When Hanke questioned Merritt about it, he said he got different stories. Hanke also said regarding Merritt’s cell pinging in Victorville on Feb. 6 that Merritt said he was not in the high desert that day. Merritt’s sister, who lived in Oro Grande, told detectives her brother did not visit her Feb. 6.
Detective Ryan Smith said the signatures on checks did not match Joseph McStay’s signature. Evidence shows Merritt’s truck was at grave.
PRELIMINARY UPDATE 6/15/15 – Morning: The Preliminary hearing started at 9 a.m. The first person up was San Bernardino Det. Hart. He spoke about what was found in the graves.
In the graves were found: black woman’s bra, Gianni’s backpack, the socket end from a white extension cord, white shop towel, Joey Jr’s bath towel w/ imprinted black nose and whiskers, small sledge-hammer.
The male remains had an extension cord wrapped around neck and tied in a knot and a white woven blanket wrapped around him and secured by red tie-down. Blue painter’s tape wrapped in towel in one of graves.
Medical examiner ruled at least 3 of four members were killed with small sledgehammer found with bodies, fourth member undetermined.
Det. Bachman stated: Joseph McStay received fractures to his head, leg and rib and was done before he died and then was hit in the head four times. Summer had multiple fractures, including fractures to her jaw, and that was done before she died, and frontal bones of her skull. Her cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head. The toughest to hear is the fate of their two son’s. Gianni was found to have “at least seven blows to the head,” and Joseph Jr. has had no definitive cause of death but Bachman believed that he died of blunt force trauma to his head, like the other members of his family.
Det. Joseph Steers stated Joseph was wrapped in a tan, heavy woven material matching that of the missing Futon cover from #McStay home, Steers said. “Items found in
#McStay family graves, including paint stains, tape and clothing, came from McStay home.”
Paint found on bra belonging to Summer McStay and had white paint stain the same as white paint on sledge-hammer, Summer was found to be wearing a bra and black sweat pants at the burial site, and Joseph McStay’s pants had paint, and sledge-hammer had white paint on sledge-hammer, and he was wearing a t-shirt. It seems as though they were all, including the baby in a diaper, were only dressed to be inside their home.
Two sets of tire tracks were found: 73″ in width and the other set measured 76″ in width. Wider than the 67″ Michael McStay first told social media. This discrepancy could be because of where the measurements were taken. Inner wheel to inner wheel instead of outer wheel to outer wheel.
Det. Dugal stated: Merritt consented to a DNA swab. He spoke of the McStay’s in past tense. He said he last saw Joseph on Feb 4, 2010 at the Chic-fil-a restaurant. In Feb. 2010, Merritt drove a 1999 Chevy 3500 pickup and DNA swabs were pulled from Trooper’s steering wheel and gear shift, radio and heater controls. Merritt said he rode in the Trooper but never drove it.
Det. Backman called back on the stand and said that Merritt’s DNA was found on the steering wheel and gear shifter.
S/A Boles stated that Merritt and Joseph spoke on the phone 27 times Feb. 4, 2010. He also called him on Feb. 4, three times and it was unanswered. Multiple cell phone tower pings in Victorville and Oro Grande (Victorville desert) and highway I-15 of Merritt’s cell phone on Feb. 6. Reviewing cell records back to 2009, Merritt made only called one time from Victorville/Oro Grande area before Feb 2010. Merritt’s sister, who lived in Oro Grande, told detectives her brother did not visit her Feb. 6.
“From Feb. 9, 2010 through March 2010, Merritt withdrew thousands of dollars in cash from ATM machines at the Pechanga Casino in Temecula, San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland, and the Commerce Casino, San Bernardino County sheriff’s Detective Ryan Smith said.”
UPDATE 5/22/15 – Preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 15, and the pre-preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 12.
UPDATE 5/20/15 – Merritt’s new defense team will be Jimmy Mettias, James Terrell, Sharon Brunner and David Askander from Mettias’ law firm.
Patrick has informed me, “the Friday hearing will only be for an extension within the 30 days allowed.”
UPDATE 5/19/15 – I expected to finally hear what the prosecution had against Merritt today, but my optimism gets in way of my common sense sometimes. To not think that Merritt would have another ace up his sleeve was dumb, because that is what I think he did today. I believe he has this whole thing mapped out as to what he will do to stretch it out as long as he possible can. I think he spent the last several months going over past cases to learn about how he can make the trial last longer, instead of working on his defense. I really personally believe that he did not want a lawyer in the beginning because he wanted access to the law library, etc. so he could read up on famous cases, like Jodi Arias and use that information to stretch out his case as long as he could and now that he has that information, he now wants a lawyer.
|Jimmy Mettias (Left)
Today was supposed to be all about what evidence the San Bernardino prosecutors had on Merritt but it ended up being about Merritt possible hiring a new attorney even though he asked to be his own attorney several months back, and the fact that the lead prosecutor was sick due to illness. I believe the attorney would have had to have been extremely ill to have done that or maybe he was biding for more time. Could there be a witness that the prosecution wanted there or maybe even lab evidence they were waiting on that was not going to be there on Tuesday, so this whole “sickness” came about to stall for time? Far fetched probably but I think Friday the day the prelim has been moved to, we will see more strange things come to pass.
What is not being talked about a lot is that some of what happened in court on Tuesday that was in closed quarters and then immediately sealed. Merritt and both attorneys were present at the first one and then only Merritt was for the second one. It could be something or it could be nothing.
Word out now is that Merritt has not officially hired Jimmy Mettias, from Mettias himself, and this may lead to another delay for several months because Mettias has just walked into this case and has not had any time to prepare a defense. Whether that has bearing on the prelim, I don’t know.
Patrick McStay made an impromptu appearance at the prelim after CNN flew him to San Bernardino, at the last-minute. Sadly, his hopes to see the case move forward today were dashed. But, at least he was able to see his son Michael, and other extended family outside the court room.
|Patrick McStay at the SB Courthouse|
Merritt told everyone 6 months ago he only had 6 to 8 months to live and wanted to get this trial going, but it is looking less and less like he really meant that, as it seems more and more like he is working the system. FYI, July will be the 8 month mark on Merritt’s prediction of having only 6-8 months to live.
Here is an interesting read from the Dept. of Justice regarding Prelim’s:. Paragraph two talks about it being held within 14 days of the initial appearance. I am not sure what constitutes as the initial appearance, but I think it has already happened several months back and not within the 14 days. There must be extenuated circumstances that the state of California is using in order to go over the 14 days. Maybe asking for more time makes the 14 days timeline moot.
“Once the defendant has entered a plea of not guilty, a preliminary hearing will often be held. The prosecutor must show that enough evidence exists to charge the defendant. Preliminary hearings are not always required, and the defendant can choose to waive it.
It must be held within 14 days of the initial appearance if the defendant is being held in jail. If the defendant is out on bail, it must be scheduled within 21 days of the initial appearance.
The preliminary hearing is like a mini-trial. The prosecution will call witnesses and introduce evidence, and the defense can cross-examine witnesses. However, the defense cannot object to using certain evidence, and in fact, evidence is allowed to be presented at a preliminary hearing that could not be shown to a jury at trial.
If the judge concludes there is probable cause to believe the crime was committed by the defendant, a trial will soon be scheduled. However, if the judge does not believe the evidence establishes probable cause that the defendant committed the offense, he will dismiss the charges.”
UPDATE: 5/15/15 – Tuesday, May 19 at 9 a.m. is the Prelim which will continue Friday May 22 if so decided or needed. At that time the prosecutors will lay out the evidence against Merritt and the judge will decide if there is enough to hold Merritt and continue to trial. So, this Tuesday will be very important as the public will finally hear what evidence the prosecution has against Merritt, which many have wondered about since Merritt was arrested. I spoke with Patrick McStay, Joey’s father and he will not be at the hearing.
UPDATE 4/7/15 – : The preliminary hearing has been postponed. Merritt has released a one-page written statement to the media:
If this is accomplished I bear no malice.”
UPDATE 3/17/15 – Merritt is due back in court April 3, at which time he is slated to let Smith know if he will be ready for the April 7 hearing. Merritt told the Judge on Monday, the 16th he might have to request that his April 7 preliminary hearing be delayed, as he has seen about a third of the evidence that could be used against him.
UPDATE: 2/19/15 – Chase Merritt told the Judge today that the law library at the jail was “pretty much useless.” The Judge, unruffled by Chase’s criticism replied, “he couldn’t do much about that.” Such is the way the hearing went today with accused murderer of the McStay family.
Merritt said he did not receive any discovery yet.
Smith ordered Robert Ponce to turn over all discovery to PI Farrell who was assigned to Merritt. Outside the courtroom, Ponce told the media he had handed over 9,000 pages on a disc to Farrell on Wednesday.
By law, defendants may not have access to documents with addresses and phone numbers
The prosecuting attorney Sean Daugherty said he gave Farrell pages 1-9 of the 415 pages this morning.
Merritt stated he didn’t think that 5 weeks was enough time for discovery and that the cap of $1,000 for Farrell’s work on the case would get “eaten up”.
“He’s going to be spending 50 to 60 hours a week easily at least for the next three to five weeks,” said Merritt.
Judge Smith told Merritt that he could print out pages of discovery himself.
The Judge Smith is also looking for the doctor’s referral that states that he was okay to act as his own attorney. Merritt said he went to a doctor and he said he was “good to go,” but Judge Smith said he never received anything so he was ordering the doctor’s approval to be submitted to the court.
Lastly, Judge Smith appointed David Call as Merritt’s advisory council. He even is allowing him to bring his laptop to jail with him, when he is talking with Merritt.
Merritt has till March 16 to file a motion to retrieve files seized by authorities.
The preliminary hearing where the prosecutor presents evidence to outline the case against Merritt is scheduled April 3. The court hearing is scheduled for March 16.
UPDATE: 1/30/14 – I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Robert Ponce, the attorney representing Chase Merritt, who has been charged with the murder of the McStay family found out that Chase had kicked him to the curb on Friday.
UPDATE: The original search warrants executed by SDPD by Dugal were unsealed on Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. Dugal stated in the documents to the Judge that he felt that the family had been either kidnapped or killed. Also, a list of the items taken by the authorities show that they collected cell phones and Joseph’s wallet were found in the home, in addition to all computers, camera’s and camcorders and suitcases full of clothing.
Why did Dugal change gears early on in the investigation. What happened that he went from saying they were kidnapped or killed to pulling items out of the home to saying they crossed the border?
Most importantly, with Dugal’s belief they were killed, why wasn’t a forensic team brought in to examine the home?
UPDATE: 11/20/14 – The pre-preliminary hearing was moved as most expected to Jan 30, 2015, as Ponce, Merritt’s attorney had a lot of documentation to go over that no one could have been able to get through by now. Ponce did also say that Merritt has a heart condition and that he wanted the trial to move quickly.