The trial of the man accused of killing University of Texas student Haruka Weiser is set for this fall, and both the prosecution and defense say they do not anticipate any further delays.
Meechaiel Criner’s trial originally was slated for March 27, but a holdup with DNA testing forced state district Judge David Wahlberg to move it to Oct. 2. Barring any unforeseen snags, there will be no more postponements.
“We have every intention of being ready for trial on the scheduled dates,” Criner’s defense attorney, Ariel Payan said.
Mindy Montford, the top assistant to Travis County district attorney Margaret Moore, says her office will be ready as well.
Status hearings are set for July 6, Aug. 21 and Sept. 28. Payan said those dates “will no doubt prove contentious” as he argues against prosecutors Marc Chavez and Victoria Winkeler over what evidence can be admitted into the trial. Moore is on the record as saying Criner will not be offered a plea deal.
Criner, a teenage runaway from a foster home in Killeen, faces up to a life sentence if convicted, but will be spared the death penalty because of a state law that exempts minors from execution. Criner, 18, was 17 on April 3, 2016 when police say he strangled and sexually assaulted Weiser, a freshman theater and dance major from Portland, Ore.
Criner’s arrest affidavit said investigators were drawn to him after finding him burning items that likely belonged to Weiser inside an abandoned building.
Payan said psychologists hired by the defense have been conducting tests “and have been for some time.”
Weiser’s death a year ago rocked an historically safe campus that had not had a murder since 1966 when engineering student Charles Whitman opened fire from the UT Tower amid a rampage that killed 16 people.
Weiser’s death sparked UT to revisit campus safety measures, with the Texas Department of Public Safety recommending the school hire more police officers and security guards, improve lighting and tighten nighttime access to campus buildings.