Law & Order

JUDGE SAYS JURORS CAN DECIDE MURDER CASE: Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge John G. Whiteside denied a motion Thursday that challenged the legal basis for charges against former Hickman pastor Doug Porter and could have led to a dismissal of those charges. Porter, 56, is suspected of murder stemming from an April 2004 wreck that killed 85-year-old rancher Frank Craig; attempted murder connected to a March 2002 wreck that crippled Craig; theft or embezzlement from an elder adult by a caretaker; and elder abuse causing death. Craig had entrusted his $2.5 million fortune to Porter because he believed Porter would help him build an agricultural museum. Defense attorney Kirk McAllister argued that the prosecution had not provided enough evidence to support those charges. Whiteside said this should be left up to a jury. Porter's trial is scheduled to begin in May, said Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne.