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Avila Requests Another Delay

Hearing for Samantha Runnion's accused killer is set for Monday, but his lawyers want more time.

November 27, 2002|Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writer

A Lake Elsinore man accused of kidnapping and killing 5-year-old Samantha Runnion of Stanton is seeking to again postpone a preliminary hearing that will determine if there is enough evidence to bring him to trial.

Alejandro Avila's attorneys filed a motion late Tuesday asking for another delay of the proceeding, now scheduled for Monday, arguing that they need more time to analyze DNA evidence that allegedly connects their client to the crime.

Last month, Orange County Superior Court Judge Francisco P. Briseno granted the defense its first delay, agreeing that Avila's attorneys needed more time to comb through the 11,000-plus pages of documents provided by prosecutors.

At that time, Assistant Public Defender Denise Gragg said defense experts would need at least until the end of the year to review the DNA evidence. Her latest motion echoes that request.

"Although defense counsel has diligently provided its experts with the required data, the necessary analyses and consultations with counsel have not been completed," she wrote.

Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas, who has been fighting delays since Avila's arrest, said Tuesday he would "vehemently oppose this pattern of delay. I intend to invoke the people's right to a speedy trial."

Briseno will hear arguments from both sides before Monday's scheduled preliminary hearing.

Avila, 27, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing Samantha. Prosecutors have said they would seek the death penalty.

Samantha was abducted July 15 as she played with a friend at her Stanton condominium complex. Her body was found the next day along a mountain road between Orange County and the Riverside County community of Lake Elsinore.

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