Move to dismiss charges rejected in suspected Turlock road rage death

rahumada@modbee.comAugust 26, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    Rosalio Ahumada
    Title: Courts reporter
    Coverage areas: Criminal cases, breaking news
    Bio: Rosalio Ahumada has been a reporter at The Bee for more than seven years, previously covering crime and public safety issues. He also has worked at the Merced Sun-Star, covering education.
    Recent stories written by Rosalio
    On Twitter: @ModBeeCourts
    E-mail: rahumada@modbee.com

— A judge on Monday rejected a defense motion to dismiss charges against a defendant accused of beating to death a 67-year-old man during a suspected road rage confrontation in Turlock three years ago.

Michael Joseph Hoyt faces a second trial in the death of Ken Winter.

But Frank Carson, Hoyt's attorney, argued that his client no longer has to stand trial because a jury in May acquitted him of more serious charges but failed to reach a verdict on a count of involuntary manslaughter.

"My client, as he sits here today, is uncharged, he's acquitted," Carson told the judge during a hearing Monday afternoon.

The defense attorney claims the case has passed the three-year statute of limitations because his client no longer faces a maximum sentence of at least eight years in prison.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova disagreed with Carson, telling the defense attorney that his client must stand trial again.

Hoyt, 53, initially was charged with second-degree murder in Winter's death. The jury, however, unanimously agreed that Hoyt was not guilty of the murder charge. It also found him not guilty of two levels of voluntary manslaughter. But the jurors couldn't unanimously agree on the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Because of the verdict, the Stanislaus County district attorney's office filed new charges against Hoyt: involuntary manslaughter and assault likely to inflict great bodily injury.

Carson argued that the new charges mean his client has a right to a preliminary hearing, which essentially would mean the case would have to start over. "This is a whole new case," Carson told the judge. "They have different elements to these charges."

Mistrial was declared

Deputy District Attorney Wendell Emerson disagreed. He argued that the new charges are a continuation of the murder case because the court was forced to declare a mistrial as a result of the hung jury.

Córdova was ready to proceed with Hoyt's arraignment Monday, but Carson said his client wasn't prepared to enter a plea. If the court decides not to grant Hoyt another preliminary hearing, Carson told the judge his client has a right to challenge the charges with a demurrer motion.

Carson also said he still needs to find out whether Hoyt will retain his legal services for a second trial. The defense attorney told the judge the court might have to appoint him to the case.

If Hoyt no longer can afford to retain his attorney and the judge appoints Carson, the taxpayers would have to pay Carson to represent Hoyt.

The judge postponed the arraignment hearing until Oct. 28 to give Hoyt and his attorney time to decide what they want to do. Carson is in the middle of a lengthy murder trial in an unrelated case, so a trial for Hoyt wouldn't happen anytime soon.

The defendant remains free on bail as he awaits his second trial.

The confrontation between Hoyt and Winter occurred about noon Feb. 1, 2010, at Linwood Avenue and Paulson Road. Hoyt has said he thought Winter didn't stop at a stop sign and almost struck his pickup. A witness testified that she saw Hoyt hitting Winter, who was in the fetal position trying to protect himself.

Self-defense claimed

Hoyt testified Winter lunged at him first, and he fought back in self-defense as the two men struggled on the ground. He said Winter was not in the fetal position.

Authorities say that after the confrontation, both men got back in their vehicles. Winter drove to his sheet-metal shop, where he lost consciousness.

A forensic pathologist testified that Winter died from a ruptured spleen caused by blunt force trauma, and his injuries were consistent with someone who had been severely punched. The prosecutor has argued that Winter's face was so swollen, he was unrecognizable to his family.

Winter was intoxicated when he died, with a blood-alcohol level of 0.20 percent, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent to drive.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or (209) 578-2394. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeCourts.

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