LOCKPORT – Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III, frustrated by the failure of an expert to deliver a report that could be used in defense of a murder suspect, began setting deadlines Thursday.
But the result was a further two-month delay in the case.
Murphy ordered the attorney for John R. Freeman Jr., the alleged killer of 5-year-old Isabella M. Tennant, to deliver a Williamsville doctor’s report to the prosecution by May 31.
The attorney, Robert Viola, has been saying since last October he intended to use a psychiatric defense for Freeman, 17, of Sixth Street, Niagara Falls.
He is accused of strangling the Cheektowaga child while he was baby-sitting her Aug. 26 in her great-grandparents’ home on Sixth Street, and dumping her body in a stolen garbage tote.
A friend who allegedly helped him do so, Tyler S. Best, 18, of Barnard Street, Buffalo, is charged with tampering with physical evidence.
The pediatric neuropsychologist Viola hired examined Freeman in February, but no report has been submitted. Two weeks ago, Viola asked for more time, but Thursday, he still had no report.
“I am extremely frustrated,” Murphy said. “I have to set deadlines to move this case along.”
After the May 31 defense doctor’s report, the prosecution will have six weeks to have its own expert interview Freeman. That report must be submitted by July 12, Murphy ordered. The sides will return to court July 26.
On that day, Best’s attorney, James J. Faso Jr., will argue his request to have the two defendants tried separately. At present, they are to be tried together starting Aug. 19.
If the cases are severed, “Our intention absolutely is to try Mr. Freeman first,” Deputy District Attorney Holly E. Sloma said.
In other cases Thursday in County Court:
• Lockport attorney David C. Douglas accepted a court assignment to defend David L. Alfonso, 28, the Lockport resident charged with attempted murder in a Dec. 31 attack on his girlfriend’s 7-year-old daughter. The Public Defender’s Office had to drop the case after learning that it had once defended a person who will be a prosecution witness against Alfonso. County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas set a June 13 pretrial conference and a July 29 trial date.
• Also receiving a new attorney will be Jennifer R. Marchant, 23, of North Tonawanda, who stabbed her live-in boyfriend to death Feb. 6. Her previous attorneys, Glenn Pincus and Steven M. Cohen, argued that Marchant killed Ralph D. Stone Jr., 24, in self-defense. However, a grand jury charged Marchant with first-degree manslaughter. However, it appeared Thursday that Marchant’s family is financially overextended. Pincus said her parents and grandparents “are not in a position to assist her any further.”
Farkas ordered Marchant, who is free on $100,000 bail, to apply to the Public Defender’s Office and return to court Wednesday with a new lawyer.