The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed a preliminary hearing for the former police officer accused of being the Golden State Killer.
The probable cause hearing for Joseph DeAngelo, 74, has still not occurred nearly two years after he was arrested on April 24, 2018, outside his Citrus Heights home.
On Wednesday, DeAngelo was scheduled to appear in Sacramento County Superior Court, where he is facing 26 felony charges— 13 of which include murder— for crimes allegedly committed in Ventura, Santa Barbara, Orange, Sacramento, Contra Costa and Tulare counties.
The charges stem from crimes reported in the 1970s and 80s by suspects known at the time as the East Area Rapist, Original Nightstalker, Visalia Ransacker and Golden State Killer. Authorities have decided to seek the death penalty.
Prosecutors and DeAngelo’s team of attorneys in the Sacramento County Public Defender’s Office were scheduled to argue about several motions filed ahead of a May 12 preliminary hearing.
But social distancing requirements across the state due to the coronavirus outbreak changed that plan. DeAngelo did not appear in court, and instead the case was continued to June 29, said Ventura County Chief Assistant District Attorney Cheryl Temple.
The Sacramento County Superior Court has temporarily closed until May 15 and is only handling emergency matters, according to a news release.
Like many others across the state, DeAngelo’s court case is largely on hold out of public health concerns. Given DeAngelo’s age, he falls into the virus’ vulnerable population and so do some of the 150 witnesses expected to testify at the preliminary hearing.
At a January court hearing, prosecutors urged the case to move forward to a preliminary hearing due in part to the witnesses’ ages. DeAngelo’s defense team said they needed more time to go through the investigative files, but the court sided with prosecutors.
During that January hearing, the court entered a not-guilty plea on DeAngelo’s behalf to get the case moving forward. His defense attorneys wouldn’t do it.
After that court appearance, DeAngelo’s team filed a series of motions, one of which argues that the man’s legal defense will suffer if more resources aren’t allocated.
Those motions are expected to be litigated June 29, Temple said.