Judge says no conflict found for 2 lawyers in children's slaying case

December 14, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

The murder trial of two men accused of slitting the throats of three of their young relatives in Northwest Baltimore likely won't begin until this spring, but a judge determined yesterday that the relationship of the men's attorneys does not constitute a conflict of interest.

The first-degree murder trial of Policarpio Espinoza, 22, and Adan Canela was scheduled to begin yesterday, but instead Baltimore Circuit Judge Kaye Allison ruled on a motion from prosecutors that asked for a clarification of the potential conflict between the defense attorneys.

James Rhodes, Canela's attorney, and Timothy M. Dixon, who represents Espinoza, share office space near the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse on Calvert Street, but they are not part of the same firm.

Prosecutors had raised the issue, in part, because a statement that Espinoza made to police shortly after the May 27 killings implicates Canela, according to the state's motion for clarification.

But the judge said yesterday that she believes the defense attorneys have been conscientious in avoiding the exchange of private information.

After that hearing, prosecutors and defense attorneys told the scheduling judge that they would like to begin pretrial motions in April and the trial in June. The next hearing will be Feb 7.

Prosecutors are pursuing sentences of life without parole for both men.

Espinoza and Canela are accused of strangling Ricardo Solis Quezada Jr. and Lucero Solis Quezada, both 9, and their cousin, Alexis Espejo Quezada, 10, in the family's Fallstaff apartment. One child was beheaded and the other two were partially decapitated.

Espinoza is Canela's uncle and is a brother of the father of the dead siblings. Both defendants, along with the children's parents and many other relatives, are illegal immigrants from Mexico. The relatives likely will be deported after the trial.

Family members filled a bench in the courtroom yesterday. They spoke at length with the defense attorneys and have said previously that they do not believe Espinoza and Canela are guilty.

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