GOSHEN — The court has up to 60 days to issue a ruling after a codefendant charged for his alleged involvement in a Goshen home invasion asked for his case to be separated.
Montrail Williams, 18, appeared in Elkhart’s Circuit Court for a hearing. A joint trial for him, Armando Gonzalez and Davon Crenshaw was initially set for Monday, June 30, but it was rescheduled because of another trial with a higher priority was set to go that day.
Williams is one of five men who are accused of breaking into a mobile home in Goshen Nov. 4, 2013, terrorizing the family that was home at the time and taking cash from the victims.
They are facing charges of robbery while armed with a deadly weapon, burglary, criminal confinement and conspiracy to commit burglary.
One of the co-defendants, Antoine McDuffie, pleaded guilty to his charges in March. The fifth co-defendant, Matthew Allen, has a hearing scheduled for Nov. 6.
The court changed the trial date to Feb. 2, 2015.
Williams’ attorney, Jeff Majerek, asked the court to sever his client’s case and the court held a hearing Thursday to listen to Majerek’s arguments on behalf of Williams.
Majerek cited Bruton issues as a reason why his client’s case should be severed, saying that if an officer who received oral confessions from one or more of the codefendants in the case is brought to the stand to testify, he could implicate Williams.
The Bruton rule, the result of Bruton v. United States, states that in a defendant’s rights are violated if a witness testifying against a co-defendant names the defendant at the stand.
Majerek said he feared an officer brought in to testify for one of the co-defendants would place the other co-defendants at the scene, making it a Bruton issue.
Deputy prosecuting attorney David Francisco asked the court to not sever the case, saying the prosecutor’s office did not agree with Majerek’s assessment. Francisco said the prosecutor’s office is aware of any possible Bruton issues and is working around them.
“We have asked do try this jointly and there are very good reasons,” he said. “First and foremost, it’s judicial economy. Secondly, we have a bunch of victims who remain to this day quite terrified. We do not want to re-victimize them multiple times by heaving three multiple trials.”
Williams’ trial remains set for Feb. 2, 2015 at 8:30 a.m. unless the court severs the case.