Attorneys Blame Opposing Sides for Delays in Prison Murder Trial

July 29, 2021, 9:01 p.m. ·

Judge Vicky Johnson
District Court Judge Vicky L. Johnson (File Photo)

Attorneys defending Tecumseh prison inmate Eric Ramos from a murder charge argued in district court Thursday that delays in getting a re-trial have stretched on so long the case should be thrown out.

Prosecutors responded there are understandable reasons the case has dragged on for over five years and that the defense team is partially to blame for attempts at "running out the clock."

The hearing took place at the Saline County Courthouse.

During a riot at the Tecumseh Correctional Center in 2015, homicide investigators claimed security cameras showed Ramos taking part in a mob attack that led to the death of fellow inmate Micheal Galindo.

Eric Ramos
Eric Ramos appears in court (File Photo)

Issues with missing evidence and an improper discussion among police and corrections officials prompted District Court Judge Vicky L. Johnson to declare a mistrial in 2019. A variety of motions and appeals stalled efforts to proceed.

The Ramos defense team claims the new trial, scheduled in August, falls outside the Nebraska state law's six-month requirement. Constitutional guarantees for a "speedy trial" can only be waived by the accused. Responsibility for meeting that requirement falls with the prosecution.

Cory O'Brien, prosecuting the case for the Nebraska Attorney General's office, emphasized the challenges of scheduling an uninterrupted four-week block of time for the trial.

In an unusual move, Judge Johnson's bailiff, Kathy Homolka, was called as a witness. As her boss listened from the bench, Homolka testified about the difficulty of scheduling court proceedings around a pair of recent death penalty cases while still coping with hearings delayed by the pandemic.

Citing a Nebraska Supreme Court case that called out defense attorneys claiming unfair trial delays, O’Brien asked the judge to consider whether it was attorneys for Ramos causing delays by "running out the clock" and using "gamesmanship."

Judge Johnson took the request to dismiss the case under advisement and will issue an opinion after reviewing the arguments.

During the hearing, attorneys for both sides indicated they expect another appeal that would delay the case once again, regardless of the judge's decision.

Seven hundred exhibits have been added to the court's record in this case. Sixty more were added during the two-hour hearing.