WALLA WALLA -- The trial for a Walla Walla man accused of killing a rival gang member and shooting at others in a confrontation last spring now is set to be held next May, a year after he allegedly committed the crimes.
Benito Gomez, 18, had been scheduled for trial in Superior Court starting Dec. 6 on the charges of first-degree murder and six counts of first-degree assault.
But the proceedings now are expected to be held May 8-17, 2012. This is the third delay, reportedly to give the defense more time to prepare.
Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle explained in an email message Tuesday that Gomez's attorney Jerry Makus has been busy with other cases, hasn't had enough time to prepare the defense adequately, and the state crime lab hasn't finished analyzing some of the evidence and won't be able to by the December trial date.
"We really couldn't object under these circumstances," Nagle wrote.
Gomez has waived his right to a speedy trial in order to accommodate the new trial date.
He is accused of the premeditated killing of Julio Cesar Martinez, 20, who was shot twice in the head about 6 p.m. on May 17 in an alley in the 300 block of Myrtle Street.
Martinez died later that night at Providence St. Mary Medical Center.
Gomez was arrested May 21 and is being held in the County Jail on $1 million bail. A police report filed in court says he admits being a gang member and having been in the general area during the time frame of the shooting, but denies being involved.
Police say the killing -- the first gang-related homicide in the city -- occurred when what apparently was anticipated to be a more-routine turf battle turned deadly.
Terry McConn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8319.