AUSTIN (KXAN/AP) - After a hearing that lasted only seven minutes early Friday morning, a judge granted a delay in the murder trial for Mark Norwood.
Judge Burt Carnes granted a continuance, and the trial that was set for Jan. 7 may now not come until February at the earliest -- though it will likely happen in March.
Judges still need to come together to decide when exactly that trial date will be, and jury pool notices will have to be recalled and sent out again.
Defense attorneys have been wanting more time to find a new DNA expert, and they will be getting two new DNA experts for the trial. Still, the state will stick with Travis County's DNA expert.
Lawyers for the man charged in the 1986 killing of an Austin woman -- whose husband wrongly spent nearly 25 years in prison for the crime -- asked a judge on Monday to delay the January trial.
Norwood is charged with capital murder in the death of Christine Morton. The case drew widespread attention last year when Michael Morton, Christine's husband, was freed from prison after DNA evidence finally proved his innocence.
A Williamson County judge in mid-June ordered Norwood's trial to be moved to San Angelo in Tom Green County.
Judge Carnes is the presiding judge of the 368th District Court and presiding local administrative judge for Williamson County.
Attorneys requested the change of venue, arguing that the case is so well-known due to Norwood's alleged connection to the highly publicized case and release of Michael Morton last fall.
Indictment in second cold case
Earlier this month, a Travis County grand jury indicted Norwood on capital murder charges in the 1988 death of Austin resident Debra Baker, whose death has long gone unsolved. She lived just blocks away from the Morton home.
Baker's daughter, Caitlin Baker, called the wait for a break in her mother' death "excruciating."
"It is difficult for us to process the reality that Debra might still be with us if evidence in the Morton case had been handled in the manner required by law," she said. "Though we have been frustrated at the length of time it has taken to get to this point, we are grateful to the Austin Police Department and Travis County District Attorney's office for their hard work on Debra's case.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said the indictment of Norwood "came after a coordinated investigation" between the Austin Police Department and her office.
Attorney John W. Raley, who was part of the legal team that helped Morton win exoneration, also weighed in on the indictment.
"We all need to remember that when an innocent person is convicted of a murder, the real murderer goes free." Raley said. "The tragic consequences of a wrongful conviction can affect many families."
In her statement, Caitlin Baker thanked authorities and Morton's defense team for their work on the case.
"We are extremely grateful for the work of John Raley and the Innocence Project," she said. "We understand this process may take even longer but at least the end of the legal road is near. We will each hold our own memories of Debra in our hearts as we participate in the difficult process of bringing her killer to justice."
Baker, a young mother, was killed Jan. 13, 1988, and as recently as January, police still needed help solving the murder.
"It shook the feeling of safety that people had," said Anne Boettner, Baker's neighbor at the time of the murder. "I really felt that her children deserved their day in court. One thing I heard about Debra Baker at the time was that she was a wonderful mother."
Police had suspected that Norwood was linked to the case. But early this year, they said they needed more evidence.
Norwood lived in Baker's Northcentral Austin neighborhood at the time and worked as a carpet layer. Norwood was arrested on suspicions of two home break-ins and a car burglary a year before Baker's death.
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