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Hall County courts hope to clear 4 murder trials in ’09

POSTED: December 17, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Hugo Tepanca is charged with murder.

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Hall County’s superior court judges hope to see most of the county’s pending murder cases cleared from the dockets next year, with four of the six tentatively scheduled for trial in 2009.

On Tuesday, Judge Kathlene Gosselin told attorneys to plan to try the case of murder defendant Hugo Tepanca in mid-June. Gosselin has two other murder trials pending, including the case of Juan Bayona, who spent 11 years as a fugitive before his arrest in February in connection with a 1997 gang-related shooting.

Bayona’s case is scheduled for trial in April.

Gosselin hopes to hold a competency trial for death penalty defendant Cornelio Zamites in March. A jury must decide in a civil court proceeding whether Zamites is mentally competent to stand trial in connection with the 2005 strangulation death of a 4-year-old girl. Should a jury find Zamites competent, his murder trial could be held in August or September.

Judge Bonnie Chessher Oliver has set a March trial date for Solomon Hester, charged with murder in the October 2007 shooting death of his live-in girlfriend.

Any of the trials could be canceled in the event of negotiated guilty pleas.

Two other pending murder cases don’t have trial dates set yet.

Judge C. Andrew Fuller has indicated he would like to see the case of Donnie Poland resolved sometime in 2009, but a firm trial date hasn’t been set. Poland is charged in the May home invasion shooting death of a West Hall retiree.

The death penalty case of Allan Robert Dickie may not go to trial until 2010. Because of numerous pretrial motions and hearings, death penalty cases typically take longer to get to trial than standard murder cases.

It remains undecided whether Judge Jason Deal will continue to preside over the case after the defense moved to have him recused.

Dickie is charged in the August 2007 late-night stabbing death of a woman outside a Pearl Nix Parkway supermarket.

Tepanca, who appeared in court during Tuesday’s brief pretrial hearing, was charged with murder in April after an altercation with another motorist whom he did not know ended in a fatal shooting.

Hall County District Attorney Lee Darragh said after Tuesday’s hearing that "closing four of the six pending murder cases in 2009 is a goal worth pursuing."


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