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Moncada-Aguero trial starts next week

Jury selection will begin next Monday for the trial of two men charged in the 2001 murder of a Grand Forks father and son. Prospective jurors will report to the district courthouse Monday afternoon, one day earlier than originally scheduled, and ...

Billy Joe Aguero and Joseph Moncada
Billy Joe Aguero and Joseph Moncada

Jury selection will begin next Monday for the trial of two men charged in the 2001 murder of a Grand Forks father and son.

Prospective jurors will report to the district courthouse Monday afternoon, one day earlier than originally scheduled, and jury selection will continue into Tuesday.

Opening arguments in the case against Joseph Moncada and Billy Joe Aguero need to start Wednesday morning, Judge Lawrence Jahnke of state District Court told attorneys at Friday's pre-trial conference.

"If we have to go Monday night and Tuesday night, we're going to do it."

The prosecution gets 10 pre-empts, or the ability to remove 10 people from the potential jury pool without a specific reason. Each defendant gets 10 pre-empts as well.

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Assistant State's Attorney Jason McCarthy said they have prepared a list of 91 potential witnesses, but only 27 will be called to testify during the trial. Additionally, prosecutors will call on four expert witnesses.

David Dusek, Aguero's attorney, said the defense will rely on cross-examination of the expert witnesses instead of calling their own witnesses. They do have expert witnesses lined up to help in questioning and may be called to the stand if needed.

Prosecutor David Jones, who is handling the case with McCarthy, said the expert witnesses will begin testimony June 22, and the earliest the state will finish its case is June 23.

Dusek also informed the court that he has withdrawn Aguero's alibi defense, explaining that they determined it wasn't appropriate after further investigating some information.

"It looked like a possibility when we talked to somebody," he said.

Moncada, 26, and Aguero, 31, each have pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder. All charges are Class AA felonies with maximum penalties of life in prison.

The two are accused of shooting Robert Belgarde, 40, and his 19-year-old son, Damien Belgarde, on a rural road south of Grand Forks on Sept. 7, 2001.

Jahnke addressed some pending motions during Friday's conference:

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- He said he will continue to defer ruling on motions filed by Aguero and Moncada to exclude the use of their prior criminal records. Jahnke will make a ruling if the information is going to be offered as evidence during the trial.

- Defense attorneys also have raised objections to the prosecution using out-of-court statements by the defendants, victims and other people. Jahnke will meet with the attorneys Monday morning before jury selection to go over the information, but said he still may defer on making a final ruling.

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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