Morales to go to trial on murder charge

Accused murderer Bradley Morales is still set to go to trial May 17-25 on a charge that he stabbed his ex-girlfriend Sharmaine Leake during an apparent domestic violence altercation in August 2017. Leake later died of her injuries without regaining consciousness.

Morales wants to take the case to trial, said his lawyer, Steven Mottinger, during a hearing on Monday before Judge Doug Mattson.

Mottinger also said his client thinks the case should be dismissed because the charge was not taken before a grand jury. He also wants the judge to hear the case rather than a jury. Mattson denied his motion to waive a jury trial and said felony cases in the state system are charged in a complaint and then heard at a preliminary hearing, where a judge decides whether there is probable cause to let the case move forward. The last grand jury proceeding in district court in the county was probably back in the early 1990s, said Mattson. Cases are presented to a grand jury in the federal system, but not the state court system, he said.

Mattson then said he was closing the rest of the hearing, because the lawyers would discuss which evidence will be declared admissible at trial.

Mattson has been displeased by news stories about the case, which he said were too detailed and could jeopardize a fair trial. Ward County State’s Attorney Roza Larson objected to the move to close the hearing. She said she does not want to leave the case open to an appeal on the basis that a defendant has the right to have his case heard in open proceedings.

Mottinger agreed with the judge’s move to close the hearing because of the evidence that might be discussed; Morales said he would not waive his right to an appeal if the judge decided to close the hearing. Mattson, who has also issued an order restricting extrajudicial comments in the case, said he was closing the hearing.

– Andrea Johnson