MODESTO — A judge Tuesday agreed to a five-month delay in the trial of a man accused of beating to death a 67-year-old Hilmar man during a 2010 suspected road rage incident in Turlock.
Michael Joseph Hoyt, 52, of Turlock is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Ken Winter. Berniece Winter, Winter's wife, sat in the courtroom Tuesday with other relatives. They were visibly upset when they heard the trial scheduled to start July 17 will be postponed until Dec. 4.
Jeniffer Winter, the victim's daughter, wiped away tears in court as they learned of the postponement.
After the hearing, Ber-niece Winter said it has been gut-wrenching, knowing Hoyt remains free on bail as the case is delayed.
"We have to relive (her husband's death) every time we go back to court," she said. "We have to see this person (Hoyt). It's like opening up an old wound."
Frank Carson, Hoyt's attorney, had asked for the delay because he is in the middle of a murder trial with four defendants, which has been stalled but is set to resume July 16. Other scheduling conflicts between the court and Carson pushed Hoyt's trial date until December.
"I believe this trial going forward would be impossible," Carson said.
Deputy District Attorney Wendell Emerson agreed to the postponement, but told the judge the series of delays and continuances in this case has been "mentally draining" on Winter's family. He said some of Winter's family members had made arrangements to be away from work next month to attend the trial.
The prosecutor asked the judge to ensure that the Dec. 4 trial will start as scheduled, so the family can receive some "closure" in the case.
Carson assured the judge the defense will be ready to start in December. He expects the trial will last two to three weeks.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova said he couldn't see another way around postponing the trial.
"I understand the family's concerns, but Mr. Carson can't be at two places at once," Córdova said.
In a May 2011 preliminary hearing, the judge ruled there was sufficient evidence for a jury to decide whether Hoyt acted with implied malice when he repeatedly hit Winter, who later died from his injuries at a hospital.
Córdova, however, acknowledged that there is some evidence that suggests Hoyt acted in self-defense and that it appears Hoyt did not act with premeditation.
The confrontation occurred Feb. 1, 2010, at Linwood Avenue and Paulson Road in Turlock. Authorities say Winter was turning onto Paulson from Linwood, and Hoyt thought Winter failed to stop his pickup at the stop sign.
The men got out of their vehicles and a fight ensued. Later, both men apparently got back in their vehicles; Winter tried to drive away but lost consciousness.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394.