Judge orders Mateu trial out of Ketchkan

Posted: Sunday, February 09, 2003

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins on Thursday reversed her earlier decision and ruled that the third murder trial of 19-year-old Jose ''Che'' Mateu will be moved to Juneau.

Collins said she was not convinced a fair trial could be held in Ketchikan. Mateu's attorneys said they will appeal the ruling.

Mateu is charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence in the January 2000 shooting death of his father, Jose R. Mateu.

The elder Mateu was shot in the back of the head at his home on Jan. 13, 2000. Alaska State Troopers discovered Mateu's body the next day. Che Mateu was charged with the crime seven months later.

The state has tried the case twice in Ketchikan. Both trials resulted in hung juries.

In reversing a ruling made earlier this week, Judge Collins said she was not satisfied that Che Mateu would receive a fair trial in Ketchikan.

The judge said she was concerned by comments made by several prospective jurors who said they could not stop people outside the courthouse from sharing their opinions on the case.

''There are people in this community who somehow feel a need to have their opinions known,'' Collins said.

Collins said on two occasions during the second trial signs urging jurors to convict the defendant were placed in the courthouse and on a vehicle along the highway.

She said she also was concerned by comments made by two potential jurors.

One said it was wrong to hold a third trial in Ketchikan. The court had ruled earlier that the new jury should not hear that Mateu was being tried for a third time.

A second potential juror, who was moments from being sworn in, told the court that he could not serve because the defendant reminded him of his son and he could not imagine his son going through numerous trials.

Collins said it has been clear some jurors have latent opinions on the issue of Mateu's guilt.

Collins on Thursday also approved a defense motion to postpone the trial until April 1, when a defense expert witness would be available to testify.

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