ST. THOMAS — Prosecutors from the Justice Department told a judge in Superior Court they’re not ready to take the Jimmy Malfetti murder case to trial.
Malfetti, a resident of New Jersey who was visiting St. John on an extended vacation, was found stabbed to death in a Chocolate Hole apartment in January 2014. A suspect in the case, Mekel Wayne Blash, was arrested and charged with Malfetti’s murder in April 2015.
With jury selection set to begin at the end of the month, the judge granted a new trial date of Jan. 23, 2017. She also chastised the chief of the Justice Department Criminal Division for not responding to motions from the attorney representing Blash in the case.
Assistant Attorney General Quincy McRae told Superior Court Judge Denise Francois he was still waiting for evidence to be returned from the FBI analysis lab in Virginia.
Blash refused to submit for DNA testing at the time of his arrest, leading to late submission of materials that could possibly link him to the crime scene. With help from his lawyer, the defendant agreed to turn over hair and tissue samples in July 2015.
The lawyer representing Blash accused prosecutors of withholding evidence that was supposed to be shared during the discovery phase of pre-trial preparations.
Discussions on the status of the case took place at a hearing held Sept. 6 in Francois’ courtroom. Jury selection was supposed to begin in a few days.
Todman said she is still waiting for videotaped evidence gathered from surveillance cameras at the Love City Beach Shop. The defense is also waiting for prosecutors to hand over a videotaped interview taken with Blash by detectives around the time of his arrest.
“What we have gotten is a small portion of it,” said public defender Julie Smith Todman. Todman also complained that what appeared to be a second hand videotape of the police interview was passed along by prosecutors.
McRae said he was also denied a copy of the taped interview and was instead given a written transcript. The defense attorney said, and the judge agreed, that the original copy of the police interview must have existed at the time that an unidentified person used their cell phone to copy the recording.
Francios noted, with irritation, that Justice was not responding to the defense’s request to share evidence and that lack of response led Todman to file a motion for sanctions against McRae.
Still, Francois said, Justice did not respond. “When I don’t get an opposition to a motion, it makes me think the People don’t oppose it,” she said.
There was no explanation given as to why the legal teams sought out the surveillance tape recorded at the beach shop on Jan. 18, 2014. Early in the case, at prior pre-trial hearing, a police investigator said they believed the victim was threatened prior to the killing.
Todman said her defendant wants to obtain “the entire video surveillance tape from Love City Beach Shop for Jan. 18.”
There was also a warning from the bench against further delays. “If the case is delayed again, it will not be looked upon favorably by the court,” the judge said.