Hilburn's defense team wants more time to collect evidence, interview

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The trial of a boy accused of shooting and killing his father in 2009 has been delayed at least another month after the defense asked the judge for more time to gather evidence.

Defense attorneys Donna Trujillo Dodd and William Cooley asked District Court Judge John Pope to extend the trial date while they gather documents such as medical records in the case of their client, Benjamin Hilburn.

Hilburn, a then-10-year-old boy, is accused of shooting his father, 42-year-old Byron Hilburn, in his Belen home in August 2009.

The defense attorneys said they have had trouble scheduling more than 40 witness interviews and have had to issue subpoenas in an effort to get people to cooperate.

Both Trujillo Dodd and Cooley have said the process has been "like pulling teeth."

This was at least the second time the defense has asked the court for an extension. The trial has a new start date of Feb. 22.

In September, Pope granted a motion by Trujillo Dodd to postpone the trial 90 days to allow the defense to have enough time to prepare for the case.

"Do you have a remedy to get this information?" Pope asked. "Or are we just going to be spinning our wheels?"

Pope asked the defense attorneys why problems of gathering evidence haven't been brought to the court's attention before agreeing on a new start date next month.

The February date was one set by the New Mexico Supreme Court after both the defense and the prosecution asked for more time.

The case cannot be heard after that date unless another extension is granted by the supreme court. The defense is expected to file an extension that is more than 60 days.

The hearing, which was sequestered to the public, was supposed to determine if Hilburn's 8-year-old sister is competent to testify in court.

The defense said the girl has had incidents of bed wetting since she found out about her future court date and has developed sleep disorders since the 2009 incident. Benjamin Hilburn and his sister were not at the hearing.

"It's unusual for them not to call us back," Trujillo Dodd told the judge.

Assistant District Attorney Bryan McKay said the testimony of Emily Hilburn is necessary since she was present in the room where police said Hilburn shot and killed his father.

McKay said he was concerned that the two children were not in court for the hearing. He has said he does not want to call Emily Hilburn to the stand to testify because of her age.

He said the defense has had trouble in the past few months with collecting medical records and getting people to comply with court issued subpoenas.

"My biggest concern is that none of this is new," McKay said. "(The defense) is coming here at the last second with the same problems that (they have had.)"

The judge gave the defense until more time to collect all medical records needed for a future competency hearing and said it must be determined whether Emily Hilburn is able to tell the truth from a lie before she can testify.

No such hearing has been set.


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.