Court strike puts murder-for-hire trial on hold

One of Gilroy’s biggest murder trials in years
– scheduled to begin Monday – will continue to wait on the
sidelines while a dazed court system struggles to operate with more
than 600 of its workers on strike.
SAN JOSE – One of Gilroy’s biggest murder trials in years – scheduled to begin Monday – will continue to wait on the sidelines while a dazed court system struggles to operate with more than 600 of its workers on strike.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge William Danser announced in a hearing Monday morning that the trial for four South County defendants accused of first-degree murder will be delayed until a judge can be found to hear the case.

The trial includes Gustavo Covian, 39, Maria Covian, 28, Ignacio Covian, 31 and Kyung Kim, 46 – all charged with involvement in the November 1998 disappearance and suspected murder of 49-year-old Young Kim, Kyung Kim’s husband of 24 years and owner of the former Gavilan Restaurant at 6120 Monterey Road.

“It’s really hard to say where it will go from here with all that’s going on,” said Peter Waite, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case. “We could get a call from the court this week saying we’ve been assigned a judge and the trial can start. … If we don’t get a call, we’ll be back here next Monday. I would think a trial date and a judge would be named by then.”

When a judge for the case is finally named, two separate severance requests will be the first order of business for the new judge – possibly creating two or three separate trials.

Attorneys for two of the defendants – former husband and wife Gustavo and Maria Covian – have requested severance hearings to argue that their clients be tried separately from all the other defendants. Both lawyers said their clients can’t receive a fair jury trial if they are prosecuted with their co-defendants, citing contradictory testimony from the different defendants.

Waite has said he will agree to allow the males and females to be tried separately, but he wants to keep the Covian brothers together.

If convicted of the first-degree murder charges, the defendants could face life in prison without parole. All four of the defendants are currently behind bars in the Santa Clara County Jail.

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