Hearing held on eve of Morales re-trial for murder
A pre-trial hearing was held Wednesday for Bradley Joe Morales, 31, who will represent himself next week at his re-trial for murder.
Trial judge Doug Mattson agreed to quash a subpoena for one witness who will be unavailable to testify. Morales had wanted to call that witness to introduce the testimony of another person who will be called to testify about the events of August 2017. However, Morales will be able to play a recorded interview at the trial and use it to impeach that person’s testimony if he decides to do so. Morales has alleged that the witness has told contradictory stories at different times.
The defense and prosecution also discussed whether Morales will be required to wear a “stun belt” during the court proceedings. Such a belt is worn under a suit jacket by some defendants at trial and is not visible. It is worn by some defendants for safety reasons at the trial. A correctional officer testified at the hearing on Wednesday that an officer can use a remote-control button to incapacitate a defendant who becomes violent or tries to flee the court room. Under cross examination by Morales, two correctional officers acknowledged that Morales has not had to be physically restrained at the jail or while being escorted to and from court hearings. The prosecution alleged that Morales had been disruptive at the previous trial and had to be taken back to the jail for a break. Morales said he walked back to the jail of his own accord when the judge instructed him to do so during the first trial and he conducted legal research there. Morales said he intends to win the case and would have no reason to disrupt the proceedings.
Morales was convicted by a jury at his first trial in May 2018 of the stabbing death of his ex-girlfriend. Mattson subsequently sentenced him to 40 years in prison. However, the State Supreme Court later ordered that Morales must be given a new trial because it ruled that Mattson had violated Morales’s constitutional right to a public trial by closing the courtroom on different occasions without first considering alternatives.
Morales has had disagreements with several of his court-appointed public defenders and Judge Mattson ruled that he could represent himself with a public defender standing by.
The re-trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 1 in district court in Minot.