D.C. Superior Court Judge Frederick Weisberg wants to get the Robert Wone case going, and today he set a May 10, 2010, trial date.
“Alright. Good. Mark it down in big letters,” Weisberg said from the bench in a packed courtroom, where observers gathered for a status hearing in the Wone case.
Whether that trial date holds remains unknown. Testing of forensic evidence continues in the government’s case against Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky, and Dylan Ward, who are charged with obstruction, evidence tampering, and conspiracy stemming from the stabbing death of Wone in August 2006.
Defense lawyers David Schertler, Robert Spagnoletti, Thomas Connolly, and Bernard Grimm were in Weisberg’s court this afternoon going over the evidence that has been—and has not been—tested. Also, Weisberg was expected to sign an order giving the defense a chance to conduct its own tests on government evidence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Kirschner, chief of the homicide section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C., said additional toxicological tests will be completed on the remaining sample of Wone’s blood. Prosecutors say they believe Wone was restrained, drugged, and sexually assaulted. But no drugs were found in Wone’s blood in early tests.
Because the blood sample is small, Kirschner said, the screening of additional drugs will be narrow. And there’s no certainty that a test will turn up any drugs, the he said. Paralytic drugs metabolize, leaving no trace in a person’s body, Kirschner said. “It’s a little bit of a shot in the dark,” Kirschner said about finding additional drugs in the blood sample.
“I want them to test whatever they think. It’s their burden,” said Connolly of Wiltshire & Grannis, who represents Zaborsky. Price retained Grimm of Cozen O’Connor, and Schertler & Onorato represents Ward. Connolly said the defense is not intentionally delaying the case.
Counsel for the Wone family, Covington & Burling partner Benjamin Razi, said after the hearing that the “continued delays are upsetting.”
“We believe that a jury should have an opportunity to render a judgment on the ‘intruder theory’ expeditiously,” says Razi, who attended the hearing with Wone’s widow, Kathy, and her family. “This is not rocket science.”
Weisberg set a status hearing for Sept. 11. The defense lawyers and prosecutors are expected to report back then about the status of the continued testing of forensic evidence.