Public defender will represent murder suspect in third trial

Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2001

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- When Jose M. Mateu is tried a third time on charges that he murdered his father, he will have a new defense attorney.

Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins ruled last week that Louis Menendez, a Juneau attorney who has defended Mateu twice, may withdraw from the case.

Mateu, also known as Che Mateu, is charged with first-degree murder and evidence tampering in the shooting death of his father, Jose R. Mateu, in January 2000. The elder Mateu was found dead in his home, shot once in the back of the head while sitting in a recliner.

The younger Mateu was tried on the charges in May and October. Both trial ended with hung juries.

At a hearing Thursday, Menendez said he wanted to withdraw from the case because Mateu can no longer afford his services. At that time, Mateu did not oppose Menendez's action and Collins granted the request.

However, on Friday, Mateu said he did not understand what he was doing and that he strenuously opposed the withdrawal of Menendez.

Mateu said the state apparently has unlimited resources to prosecute the case, and that the state should bear the burden of an adequate defense. The best person to defend him, said Mateu, is Menendez.

In response to questioning from Collins, Menendez said the defense for two previous trials cost in excess of $250,000. He said Mateu owes his office for the second trial even though Menendez forgave thousands of dollars of that debt. Collins reaffirmed her order releasing Menendez from the case.

Barb Kissner of the Ketchikan Public Defenders office said the agency will assign an attorney to Mateu from outside of Ketchikan within two weeks. A hearing to determine scheduling and attorney status is set for Dec. 27.

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