Man to wait over two years before his trial
Dispute over defense forces six-month delay in 2008 case
A 70-year-old man who has waited in jail for 22 months for trial will wait six months more in the Mesa County Jail until he goes back to court again.
Mesa County District Judge Richard Gurley on Tuesday postponed William Rydell’s trial on a charge of attempted first-degree murder after a dispute arose involving Rydell’s toxicology-related defense.
The only way to resolve the issue was to agree to a continuance allowing the prosecution to investigate the issue, defense attorney Colleen Scissors said.
The jury pool from which attorneys hoped to select a panel was dismissed, and a new trial date was set for March.
Prosecutor Mark Hand couldn’t be reached for comment.
“It’s a sad day for the court system,” Bill Grafe, a friend of Rydell, said after the trial was continued. “There’s no justice at all.”
Rydell, who has no previous offenses, remains in jail in lieu of $500,000 bond. In addition to the charge of attempted first-degree murder, he faces forcible sexual assault and other charges stemming from an incident in his apartment at 999 Bookcliff Ave. on Dec. 5, 2008. After police were called and found the woman unconscious and Rydell suffering from self-inflicted wounds from a suicide attempt, Rydell told investigators what he remembered of the night.
He has been held in the Mesa County Jail since then.
The length of time that Rydell has been jailed awaiting trial “is certainly unusual” in Colorado, said Phil Cherner, a Denver attorney and former head of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar. “I can’t tell you it’s unlawful, but it’s unusual, especially with a 70-year-old defendant.”
Grafe offered stronger words about the situation.
“By God, it’s somebody’s fault,” Grafe said. “Somebody needs to stand up and take responsibility. That’s what they’re asking him to do.”
Rydell originally was assigned a public defender, then hired Scissors to defend him, which caused one delay. Another delay came when Scissors had an emergency arise on the eve of trial. Other delays stemmed from difficulty in preparing and providing evidence to the defense.
In addition to the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a speedy and public trial, Colorado law requires that defendants be tried within six months of pleading not guilty, but that requirement can be waived by the defendant. Each time that happens, a new six-month trial clock is set. If six months pass without a trial and without a waiver from the defendant, the case is to be dismissed.
Grafe and another man, Lonnie Mayhugh, are poker-playing friends of Rydell who have deplored the delay in his trial.
“He’s an innocent man rotting away” in jail, Mayhugh said.
Even if Rydell were guilty, “He doesn’t deserve to be hanging in limbo,” Mayhugh said. “We’re supposed to have the best judicial system in the world, but this not a very good example of how it works.”