MODESTO — A judge on Thursday warned a defendant accused of murder in a Modesto shooting that if he tries to contact witnesses in his upcoming trial, he will face the consequences of a strike offense.
Deputy District Attorney Brad Nix told the judge that defendant Joseph Dixon sent an intimidating letter to one of the witnesses, telling her there was no need for her to testify. The prosecutor said he was not opposed to the defense request to postpone the trial, but he asked the judge not to grant a lengthy delay.
"I'm deeply concerned about the victim's family and the witnesses," Nix told the judge about Dixon's attempts to contact them. "It has to stop."
Dixon, 38, remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail as he awaits his trial. He is accused of murder in the 2009 shooting death of 28-year-old Shannon Case.
The Ceres woman was found dead in a parked car about 1:30 a.m. April 4, 2009, near Pelton Avenue and Hammond Street in the Robertson Road Park area.
Initially, Dixon, Desiree Mills and Madeline Lopez, Dixon's girlfriend, all were charged with murder in Case's death. Mills has since pleaded no contest to being an accessory in the crime, and her murder charge was dropped.
Moments before a preliminary hearing in the case was about to resume in July 2010, Dixon grabbed Mills' hair, pulled her to the floor and tried to grab her throat, according to Stanislaus County sheriff's officials.
After that assault in the courtroom, the court decided the defendants would be prosecuted separately.
Testimony in the preliminary hearing indicated that Case was the unintended victim of a revenge plot, and that Dixon had intended to shoot a man who was a passenger in the car.
Dixon's trial was scheduled to start Sept. 23, but defense attorney Mark Sullivan told the judge Thursday he needs more time to try to speak to prosecution witnesses. He said the witnesses' credibility will play a huge role in the case, and he believes he can put on a strong defense.
The prosecutor said he would not object, mainly because the judge has started another murder trial that makes it unlikely Dixon's trial could start on time.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Scott Steffen granted the postponement and rescheduled the trial to start Jan. 21. The judge agreed with the prosecutor, saying the trial should start as soon as possible because of the alleged intimidation by Dixon.
Steffen ordered Dixon not to try to contact any potential witnesses in his case.
Dixon spoke up in court and asked the judge for a list of the witnesses, presumably to know whom he is not supposed to contact. His attorney, however, told the defendant to quiet down as the judge continued to warn him. Dixon didn't say anything else in court before bailiffs ushered him out.