Process begins for February murder trial

ALAMOSA — Although not scheduled until February, witnesses are being nailed down for the trial against Perry Hotz, 21, who is charged with the 2016 death of his 5 1/2-month-old daughter.

With the help of District Judge Michael Gonzales on Tuesday, defense and prosecution attorneys conceded witness stand dates for key medical witnesses whose schedules are already filling up for 2018.

Hotz’s attorney Amiel Markenson told the judge one of his key witnesses could only testify on February 15 or 16, and Chief Trial Deputy District Attorney Ashley Paige Fetyko said that is true also of one of the prosecution’s key witnesses. That is the prosecution’s time during the trial, which begins February 12 and is scheduled for three weeks. Fetyko said she did not want to give up her witness to squeeze in the defense’s witness.

“We are not trying to be inflexible,” Fetyko said, “but we need to be able to have our witness testify in our case in chief. Those are the only two days he’s available … There’s not much we can do about that.”

Markenson said he did not expect his witness to take as much as a day. Judge Gonzales said although he did not think he should be involved in working out these kinds of details he would be willing to take one of the defense witnesses out of order if that is the only time he could testify, so each side will have a witness scheduled for February 15 and 16. Fetyko said the defense witness could be heard on February 16, and the judge said he appreciated that the DA’s office was willing to allow the defense to call a witness out of order. He said he also understood the attorneys were dealing with doctors’ egos.

Expert witnesses will give their opinions on whether or not the fatal injuries Hotz’s daughter suffered last October resulted from accidental or intentional means. Hotz attributed his daughter’s injuries to a fall from a bouncy chair on October 8, 2016. She died on October 11, 2016. Defense witnesses will testify that the fatal injuries resulted from a tragic accident while witnesses for the prosecution will testify the injuries resulted from child abuse.

Hotz remains in custody on a $250,000 bond.

Other motions are pending or are yet to be filed in the case, and Judge Gonzales scheduled another status hearing for December 19.

The judge told the attorneys he understood they both had incredibly hard jobs with people’s lives in their hands, but that doesn’t mean they can’t work with each other with dignity and respect.

He also encouraged the attorneys to file motions and responses within timelines set up in the case management order to avoid last-minute motions. Markenson said he would try to file motions as soon as possible. One of his requests, which the judge said would probably be denied, will be for jury questionnaires during the jury selection process. Judge Gonzales said he was not inclined to order jury questionnaires but he would consider the request.