With rulings pending on two key motions, jury selection for the Davis "sweethearts" murder trial is now tentatively scheduled to begin on March 19.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge MIchael W. Sweet today scheduled hearings for later this month to resolve two of the stickier issues in the case against defendant Richard HIrschfield.
The judge is expected to rule in a hearing set for Jan. 23 on whether prosecutors can admit a suicide note written by the defendant's brother, Joseph HIrschfield. In the note, Joseph Hirschfield said he was at the scene of the killings 30 years ago of UC Davis students John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves at a ravine near Lake Natoma. The brother also said in the note that Richard HIrschfield killed the couple.
Deputy District Attorney Dawn Bladet said in her motion to admit the suicide note that she intended to redact the portion where Joseph Hirschfield said his brother did the killing. Sweet said from the bench today that the prosecutor now wants to admit the note in its entirety.
Sweet scheduled another hearing for Jan. 30 on the defense effort to blame the killings on four people who had been charged by the Yolo County District Attorney's Office. Prosecutors in Yolo were forced to dismiss the case when DNA from a semen stain found on a blanket in Riggins' van didn't match any of the four suspects.
The judge had initially intended to have ruled on the motions by today, but he has since been swamped with additional briefings on the issues.
A 2002 DNA test on the stain came back to Hirschfield, prosecutors said. He was charged in 2004.
Riggins and Gonsalves were kidnapped Dec. 20, 1980, in Davis. Their bodies were later discovered in the ravine 35 miles to the east.