Trial is days away in the case involving former police officer Mark Torre Jr. and the shooting death of fellow police officer Elbert Piolo.
In preparation, two motions were argued in court yesterday involving evidence and witness testimony to be introduced. Both motions were filed by Torre’s attorney Jay Arriola.
The first motion is to exclude the body camera footage which the Supreme Court ruled to suppress portions of, following an appeal of the first trial.
The Supreme Court specifically ruled that there is about 20 minutes of bodycam footage which was deemed a custodial interrogation and because Torre was not read his rights during that custodial interrogation period, all of the statements made during that period were excluded and suppressed.
But the defense doesn’t want any portion of the video introduced into evidence and is calling for the remaining 15 to 20 minutes of video admissible in court to be excluded.
For the most part, the government agreed to the objections including for instance that certain portions should be deleted in addition to the portion the court ruled to suppress.
The government further agreed that at least two different statements that were made in the bodycam footage should be redacted or removed from the video.
The second motion involves the availability of the government’s expert witness, former Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Aurelio Espinola, to testify at trial. The government has given notice that Dr. Espinola may be unavailable and in lieu of this, they would like to introduce his prior testimony and his prior autopsy report from the 2017 trial.
But the defense is against this, arguing that the government did not do their due diligence in finding Espinola, adding that the government waited until the day before trial was supposed to start in December to try to locate Espinola despite knowing that there would be a re-trial since July.
Arriola sees a problem with this, arguing that in 2017 when Espinola first testified, statements were made which since then, the defense has provided the court with at least four cases in which Espinola had changed his opinion on the cause of death. He argues that without cross-examination being presented to the jury, Torre is denied his right to confront and cross-examine Espinola.
Arriola further argues that this goes to the heart of the government’s case, as the medical examiner confirms this is a homicide and the defense’s expert witness also a medical examiner, is challenging that and has his own opinion that this may not have been a homicide.
As Superior Court Judge Michael Bordallo holds the motions under advisement, he is expected to make a determination on Friday as efforts to secure a jury for trial continue. This has proven to be difficult as the case has been highly publicized. As of yesterday, 58 out of about 160 potential jurors may be considered and continue through the process of being questioned to sit on the 12-panel jury.