RACINE — The prosecution hasn’t been able to track down two key witnesses in its effort to try 41-year-old Michael Cina for the Sept. 14, 2016 killing of Joey Torrez. As a result, Racine Circuit Court Judge Mark T. Nielsen has allowed the trial to be postponed one more time.
The decision was made during a Friday afternoon hearing. It was the sixth adjournment so far in the case; charges had been initially filed Sept. 6, 2017.
Also at Friday’s hearing, defense attorney Laura Walker motioned to have the case dismissed.
Nielsen said he was “extremely reluctant to grant either of the motions,” but approved the motion to adjourn requested by the prosecution and set a new trial date for Feb. 17.
The trial had been scheduled to begin Monday.
Having six adjournments is “highly unusual, but it is what it is,” Walker said.
This is at least the second time an adjournment was approved because a witness had not been found, according to court records.
If the two witnesses still haven’t been served court papers, instructing them to testify in court, by the new trial date, Nielsen said the case would almost certainly either have to be dropped or the prosecution will have to move on without all its witnesses.
“At some point you have to go ahead with the case you have, not the case you wish had,” Nielsen told Deputy District Attorney Dirk Jensen, who is leading the prosecution.
Cina allegedly made statements to the two witnesses regarding the Racine County case, Jensen said, and that’s why they’re so essential to the case.
“The state is in a position where we cannot go forward without them,” Jensen told the court Friday.
Already going away for life
However, whether or not Cina even goes to trial, his fate is effectively sealed.
In August, he was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide in Kenosha County for killing Bernard Reavers, a 39-year-old father of three, during a burglary on Aug. 21, 2016. That conviction carries with it a minimum sentence of life in prison; a sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25 at the Kenosha County Courthouse.
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As such, no matter how long the Racine County case takes, “a continuation of this matter does not implicate the defendant’s (Cina’s) liberty interests,” Nielsen pointed out.
“While undoubtedly there is a certain amount of stress involved in having a pending charge of this nature hanging over his head, that stress I think is probably reduced somewhat by the fact that the worst has already happened for him in terms of the consequences here: he’s been convicted of first-degree murder in Kenosha,” Nielsen continued. “He’ll be given a mandatory life sentence, pending anything extraordinary happening down there (in Kenosha County).”
Cina also has two other charges pending against him, for felony battery by prisoners and misdemeanor disorderly conduct, after he allegedly assaulted a correctional officer in the Racine County Jail on Sept. 16, 2018.
Alleged Racine killing
According to surveillance footage reviewed by police more than three years ago, Cina allegedly drove his blue Ford Focus next to a vehicle Torrez was sitting in and shot him eight times on Sept. 14, 2016, in the 1600 block of Holmes Avenue.
Torrez died six days later. He was 36.
This delay is yet another blow to Torrez’s family, which has long been waiting for closure from the courts.
“We need to get justice for him. We deserve it and we want it. Then we can all be at peace once that happens,” Esther Avila Martinez, one of Torrez’s aunts, told The Journal Times.
But the adjournments have almost become routine. Martinez isn’t confident there even will be a trial in February.
“We pray and pray that it won’t get canceled,” she said, “but every time it does.”
Today's mugshots: Oct. 3
These are images of people charged with a crime in Racine County. Booking photos are provided by Racine County law enforcement officials. A defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty and convicted.
Kyle L. Kraft
Kyle L. Kraft, 1300 block of Prairie Drive, Mount Pleasant, escape.
Michael J. Leighton
Michael J. Leighton, Waupun, uttering a forgery, felony theft of moveable property (between $2,500 and $5,000), entry into a locked vehicle, fraudulent use of a credit card.
Kurt R. Ochoa
NO PHOTO AVAILABLE
Kurt R. Ochoa, 2000 block of Case Street, Racine, felony retail theft (intentionally take between $500 and $5,000), possession of narcotic drugs, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of THC, obstructing an officer.
Jeremy K. Staten
NO PHOTO AVAILABLE
Jeremy K. Staten, Milwaukee, second degree recklessly endangering safety, attempting to flee or elude an officer, obstructing an officer, hit and run (attended vehicle).
NO PHOTO AVAILABLE
Conroy Bays, Milwaukee, obstructing an officer, operating without a license.
Monia R. Fuentes
Monia R. Fuentes, 2000 block of Taylor Avenue, Racine, resisting an officer, disorderly conduct.
Christian J. Mohrbacker
Christian J. Mohrbacker, 400 block of South Cox Road, Kansasville, disorderly conduct.