Sacto 9-1-1
August 10, 2011
Trial set for suspected Yolo County cop killer

By Hudson Sangree

After a series of unusual delays, the trial of accused cop killer Marco Antonio Topete is scheduled to start next week in Yolo Superior Court.

A jury selection process involving more than 1,000 potential jurors is slated to wrap up Monday and opening statements are planned for Tuesday, court officials said.

A judicial gag order prevents lawyers from talking about the case.

Topete, 39, is accused of the June 15, 2008, rifle slaying of Yolo County Sheriff's Deputy Jose Antonio Diaz, 37, after a car chase near Dunnigan.

The deputy, who was conscious when backup arrived, died later at Woodland Memorial Hospital. A round from a high-powered rifle had pierced his protective vest.

Topete was arrested the next morning after a massive all-night manhunt along Interstate 5. He pleaded not guilty to murder with special circumstances - charges that could result in the death penalty if he is convicted.

Yolo County court officials said 1,081 potential jurors appeared at the Woodland courthouse.

Delays in the trial occurred last year when Topete opted to act as his own attorney and later asked that his lawyers be reinstated. Topete, who is housed at the Sacramento County Main Jail, also made an unsuccessful motion to remove Judge Paul K. Richardson from the case,

In April, as jury selection was under way and trial was expected to start, defense lawyer Thomas Purtell, 83, suffered a stroke. Sacramento lawyer Dwight Samuel was appointed to replace him, joining defense lawyer Hayes Gable III.

District Attorney Jeff Reisig is prosecuting the case.

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