The trial of John Odgren, who is charged with murdering a classmate at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School more than two and a half years ago, is set for April, a judge said Monday in Middlesex Superior Court.
The trial of a teen charged with murdering a classmate at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School more than two and a half years ago is set for April, a judge said Monday in Middlesex Superior Court.
John Odgren, 19, has been held without bail since his Jan. 19, 2007, arrest. He is charged with murdering James Alenson, 15, by stabbing him in a bathroom at the high school that day.
The case has been on hold for nearly a year because of a legal battle over jailhouse recordings, a fight that went all the way to the state Supreme Judicial Court. The court made a ruling two weeks ago, and yesterday was the first hearing in Middlesex Superior Court since then.
"This case is already an old one and the defendant has been held for quite a long time," said Judge Raymond Brassard. "We need to get this to trial."
The trial, which is expected to last about three weeks, is scheduled to begin April 5 in Middlesex Superior Court, the judge said.
Before that, both the prosecutors and Odgren's lawyers will still have to argue about the admissibility of the jailhouse recordings.
At issue are several hours of conversations recorded at a state Department of Youth Services lockup in Plymouth, where Odgren was initially held. He is now held at Middlesex Jail in Cambridge.
The recordings are of Odgren speaking to family members and at least one friend on the phone, as well as face-to-face meetings with his family. Because the people are separated by glass, they must speak into a phone.
Prosecutor Daniel Bennett had subpoenaed the records in 2007, and the facility turned them over in lieu of a hearing in front of a judge.
In May 2008, Brassard twice blocked prosecutors from using the recordings.
Prosecutors argued the tapes were fair game because both prisoners and those who are talking are clearly informed that the calls were being recorded.
Odgren's lawyer, Jonathan Shapiro, had argued prosecutors had to go in front of a judge to request the tapes, and they needed specific days and times to request them, rather than large chunks of recordings so they could try to find anything useful for the case.
The SJC ruled that Bennett obtained the tapes improperly, but said prosecutors may have been able to get them by other methods. They also sent the case back to superior court to determine whether Odgren's constitutional rights were violated, because of his age.
Bennett still wants to have the right to use some of the recordings, and wants to play portions in court.
Shapiro argues it does not matter what is on the recordings.
"I'm less concerned about the substance on the tapes than if they're admissible or not," he said.
Brassard set a hearing to argue about the admissibility of the recordings on Dec. 16, 17 and 18. During that hearing, Shapiro told the judge he expects at least two expert witnesses to testify, including one who will discuss whether Odgren could legally consent to being recorded because of his age and mental issues, including Asperger's syndrome.
Also yesterday, the two sides discussed Odgren being interviewed by a prosecution expert to try to determine criminal responsibility. Shapiro said he wants to be in the room during the questioning, but Bennett argued that could hinder the expert's examination of Odgren.
"One of the reasons we asked to be present is Mr. Odgren becomes extremely anxious in these types of situations," Shapiro said.
Instead of being in the room, Shapiro or a family member will be in another room, Brassard said. A videorecording of the examination will be made, which the prosecution and defense will have access to, the judge said.
Odgren faces life in prison without the chance of parole if convicted of first-degree murder.
Norman Miller can be reached at 508-626-3823 or firstname.lastname@example.org.