ALAMOSA — Even before entering a plea, his attorney asked District Judge Michael Gonzales on Tuesday to set a trial for Perry Hotz, 20, charged with the October 2016 death of his 5 1/2-month-old daughter.
Judge Gonzales tentatively scheduled the trial to begin on February 12, 2018, and to run for three weeks if necessary. The judge also scheduled a half-day hearing on motions for September 8 and said he would accept a plea on that date. One of the pending motions, for example, is the defense’s motion to suppress statements made at the hospital when the child was initially injured.
(Hotz’s daughter initially suffered head trauma on October 8 and died on October 11. Hotz has attributed his daughter’s injuries to a fall from a bouncy chair.)
In addition, with no objection from the district attorney’s office, the judge approved the release of medical records pertaining to Hotz’s daughter.
Hotz’s case was forwarded to district court following a December preliminary hearing in county court. Hotz appeared with new attorneys in March, and they asked for more time to enter a plea on his behalf.
On Tuesday Hotz’s defense attorney asked for more time to enter a plea but requested a trial date because he said the experts he expected would testify during the trial would need time to work this trial into their schedules. Most of the expert witnesses are doctors, he said, and from his experience with a similar trial he was involved in, doctors set their schedules 6-9 months in advance.
The defense attorney said he would not be ready to go to trial until January or February so did not want to enter a not-guilty plea on Hotz’s behalf now because he did not want to infringe on Hotz’s right to a speedy trial, a six-month time period that would kick in when he enters a plea.
If the judge was not inclined to wait to receive a plea, however, Hotz’s attorney said he would enter his not-guilty plea on Tuesday and likely waive his right to a speedy trial later on.
Assistant District Attorney Ashley McCuaig said it is not the normal order to set motions and a trial before entering a not guilty plea. The judge added that he understood in March the DA’s office wanted to keep this case moving forward, and he had continued this case at the defense attorneys’ request with that in mind, so he expected to accept a not guilty plea on Tuesday.
“I think I have been pretty patient,” the judge said.
Defense attorneys repeatedly asked the judge for a trial date and said they would rather not enter a plea on Tuesday.
McCuaig said he expected a trial on this case to last more than a week but not two full weeks. The defense attorney asked for three weeks. He said he expected the experts the defense would be calling would take three to four days. He added that this case would likely hinge on expert testimony.
“If I am going to set that much, I want to know what we are dealing with,” Judge Gonzales said. “That’s a lot for me to set.”
The judge said by the next court date on this case he wanted a better idea from the defense and DA’s office how long the trial would take. The judge told Hotz’s attorney to meet with the DA before the September 8 hearing to make sure there were not other pending motions.
The judge said he did not have anything scheduled yet for January and February next year, but three weeks would be a substantial period of time to set aside for this.
Hotz remains in custody.