Rios retrial pushed back to December

Friday, August 8, 2008 | 4:19 p.m. CDT; updated 11:05 a.m. CST, Thursday, December 4, 2008

COLUMBIA — The retrial of Steven Rios, which was scheduled to begin Aug. 18, has been pushed back to the first week of December.

Rios' attorney, Gillis Leonard, said that former Boone County Circuit Judge Frank Conley granted a continuance in the retrial because "recent developments have led to possible contradictory expert testimony requiring more preparation time for the attorneys."

Rios, a former Columbia police officer, was convicted of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in May 2005, for the slaying of 23-year-old Jesse Valencia, an MU student with whom Rios admitted he had an affair. Valencia was found roughly five blocks from his East Campus apartment with his throat slashed.

A copy of the state's application for continuance — sent via fax from the office of Special Prosecutor Morley Swingle — focuses on the defense's Aug. 7 disclosure of "four expert witnesses the defense intends to call as witnesses in the case, including a crime scene re-constructionist, a medical examiner, a DNA expert and a forensic entomologist."

The document says that "the prosecutor cannot at this late date adequately investigate and prepare to meet the testimony of these surprise witnesses."

On July 5, 2005, Rios was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole on the murder charge and an additional 10 years in prison for armed criminal action, to be served consecutively.

On April 27, 2007, a three-judge panel of the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals overturned the original conviction and granted a retrial, ruling that Rios was denied a fair trial because of the admission of two hearsay statements.

On Nov. 17, 2007, Rios was transported from the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater in Bayport, Minn., back to the Boone County Jail to await his retrial. He had been in the Minnesota prison for his own protection since February 2006.


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