Hughes trial set to move forward in November

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LAKE COUNTY – A San Francisco man's murder trial appears to be on schedule to start early next month after a motion to have the District Attorney's Office recused from the case was denied last week.


Judge William McKinstry on Oct. 11 turned down defense attorney Stuart Hanlon's request that District Attorney Jon Hopkins and his office be removed from prosecuting the case of 23-year-old Renato Hughes.


Hughes is facing trial for the murders of Christian Foster and Rashad Williams on Dec. 7, 2005, as Lake County News has reported.


Hughes did not shoot the two young men, who in fact were shot by Clearlake Park resident Shannon Edmonds, from whose home the men were allegedly fleeing from a robbery attempt.


However, Hopkins alleges Hughes is responsible for their deaths under a provocative act law, which holds a person responsible for the death of accomplices in a crime that is likely to result in a lethal response.


Hanlon has fought to have the trial removed from Lake County over this past year.


Last week, Hanlon went before McKinstry – the retired Alameda County Superior Court judge assigned to the case – to ask that Hopkins and his office to be recused from prosecuting Hughes.


Hanlon alleged that Hopkins should be removed from the case because he is refusing to prosecute Shannon Edmonds for trying to force his girlfriend, Lori Tyler, to commit suicide with him on Aug. 3.


The state Attorney General's Office sent Senior Assistant Attorney General Gerald Engler to lodge that agency's opposition to the motion, for which Engler argued there was no justification, Hopkins reported.


“We lost the recusal motion,” said Hanlon, which means he can't call Hopkins as a witness in the case relating to prosecuting Edmonds in the double-suicide attempt.


Hopkins denied that he has decided not to charge Edmonds relating to the suicide matter.


“At this point there has not been a determination made to file charges,” he said Friday.


Hopkins said Hanlon is attempting to transfer the attention from Hughes' alleged actions to Edmonds in order to get the jury to decide in his favor.


McKinstry ruled that evidence relating to Edmonds' alleged prior drug dealing in Lake and Mendocino counties will be admissable during the trial, said Hanlon.


In addition, McKinstry ruled that evidence regarding a shotgun found near the crime scene weeks later will be admitted, Hopkins reported,which was evidence Hanlon had wanted blocked.


Aqeela El-Amin Bakheit, president of Lake County's branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was in court for the hearing. She said McKinstry also ruled that if Edmonds is to testify in the case he cannot invoke the Fifth Amendment – which protects individuals from self-incrimination – which he did, 147 times, during preliminary testimony.


The two sides must go before McKinstry Monday afternoon to argue the issue of whether or not the attempted suicide should be disclosed during the trial.


After that, Hopkins said jury selection is set to start Oct. 23 and 24, with four panels of jurors to be called over those two days.


Hanlon and Hopkins both explained that on the initial days of jury selection jurors will complete a questionnaire, which the prosecution and defense will go over before the jurors return for further questioning Oct. 30.


Based on their answers on the questionnaire, some of the jurors may be questioned in private about possible biases, said Hanlon.


If he doesn't believe he can get a fair jury based on the questionnaires, Hanlon said he could ask for a new jury.


Hopkins, who will prosecute the case himself, said that he hopes that a jury will be selected in time for the trial to get under way Nov. 6.


Next week Hopkins said he expects to have a better idea of how long the trial could last. He expects it to last all of November – with the court taking a week off for the Thanksgiving holiday – and into December.


The first two weeks of the trial will take place in Judge Arthur Mann's Department 3 courtroom, while Mann is away, said Hopkins. Then the trial will be moved around to available courtrooms.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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