Many factors can contribute to delays in trials in local courts, including those at the Santa Maria Court Complex on Cook Street, above. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Question: Why does it take some defendants three or more years to go to court like those charged with the death of Marilyn Pharis or Javier Limon and I see others get speedy trials? 

— Orcutt resident Jaime McNinch

Answer: A lot of different factors contribute to delays in trial dates for the Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

In short, this includes calendar congestion, calendar conflicts, discovery issues, re-assignment of a case to new counsel and witness unavailability, according to defense attorney Michael Scott from the North County Conflict Defense Team. 

In most cases, defendants willingly waive time for a speedy trial. However, those in custody may not agree as readily to delays, Scott added.

In other cases, it could come down to strategy. A defense attorney viewing the District Attorney’s Office case as being weak may push for a speedy trial to give the prosecution team less time to build the case, he said.

Lately, it can be troublesome landing a spot in a judge’s calendar due to the number of lengthy trials stacked up in the queue.

That’s why one recent felony case from Santa Maria was tried in Santa Barbara.

In another North County case, a misdemeanor trial where the defense did not waive time, was handled by a judge who typically tackles family law and civil matters at the Santa Maria Court Complex.

Scott and defense attorney Lori Pedego have had three homicide trials stacked up in two different courtrooms, with the decision made that the case involving former Allan Hancock College basketball players would be held first, followed by the trial for the men charged in connection with Marilyn Pharis’s death in 2015.

Next is line is the trial for the remaining three defendants charged with the August 2014 death of Javier Limon.

Currently, that trial is scheduled to start Aug. 7 before Judge James Voysey. That trial will mark Voysey’s third multi-defendant murder trial in less than a year.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.