State

Allen's trial date delayed

Accused killer Columbus Allen Jr. II won't go to trial next month after a Stanislaus County judge agreed to yet another delay in the case.

Superior Court Judge Hurl Johnson on Wednesday pushed the trial date to April 26, more than four years after the shooting death of California Highway Patrol officer Earl Scott. The trial was set to begin in Sacramento on Jan. 12.

Wednesday's decision was the trial's fourth delay since it first was scheduled for March 2008. The prosecution, defense and a Sacramento County judge, who will preside over the trial, agreed to the continuance.

"We understand the reasons for it, and we would rather make sure that the record is clean now rather than have an appellate issue," said Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley. "We certainly want to get the case going, but at the same time, we don't want to retry it down the road."

Defense attorney John R. Grele of San Francisco did not return a call for comment Wednesday. Grele asked for the continuance because he wanted more time to complete his investigation, Shipley said.

Allen's case has been beset by delays. More than a year ago, Allen persuaded the judge to release a lawyer who had spearheaded his defense for more than two years. In August, Johnson granted a motion to delay the trial to Jan. 12. Johnson had said he would not delay the trial again.

In October, Johnson agreed to move the murder trial from Modesto because of "pervasive publicity" about the case. Sacramento was chosen as the most convenient location of three counties on a final list of trial locations that included Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties.

Later that month, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette was picked to preside over the trial. Johnson said in court that he could not follow the trial to Sacramento for personal reasons.

Allen, 33, of Stockton is charged with killing Scott about 4:40 a.m. Feb. 17, 2006. The slain officer was found at the edge of northbound Highway 99, just south of Hammett Road near Salida, holding registration papers for a Nissan Maxima registered to Allen's wife, Bertera.

The district attorney's office has charged Allen with first-degree murder and three special circumstances that could lead to the death penalty. He is being held without bail.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at mbalassone@modbee.com or 578-2337.

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