A third trial for a Shiprock man accused of sexually assaulting his girlfriend in 2007 at the Spanish Trails Inn & Suites was set for Sept. 19.
Harold Nakai, 43, chose not to waive his right to a speedy trial, despite his new attorneys having only 90 days to catch up on the 9-year-old case. He already has been convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the case, in which Nicole Leigh Redhorse, 34, bled to death after being sexually assaulted by a blunt object.
District Judge Jeffery Wilson pressed Nakai’s attorneys Wednesday at a pre-trial conference hearing, asking if they could confidently give Nakai effective counsel for the new trial.
Public defender Justin Bogan told Wilson “there’s still plenty of work to be done,” but that there was nothing outstanding in the case that would inhibit Nakai’s counsel from being effective.
Prosecutor Janet Drake pushed Wilson for a delay in the trial, cautioning that if Nakai’s lawyers are not properly prepared, there’s a risk of running into yet another mistrial.
Nakai, for his part, continually answered, “Yes I do,” when asked by Wilson if he understood the situation, and if he would rather exercise his right to a speedy trial rather than give his attorneys more time for preparation. Nakai speaks through a Navajo translator.
“Mr. Nakai is steadfast in not willing to waive his right to a speedy trial,” Bogan said.
Nakai was convicted in 2008 of sexual assault and criminally negligent homicide, but was granted a new trial after an appeals court said some statements he made to police should have been suppressed.
At the second trial, Nakai was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide, which carries up to a three-year prison sentence. However, jurors could not reach a decision on sexually assaulting a victim who was helpless, which carries a possible lifetime sentence.
Prosecutors in July decided to retry Nakai, who, along with two other men – Derrick Nelson Begaye and Carlton Lee Yazzie – is accused of taking Redhorse to the motel at 3141 Main Ave., where all three engaged in sexual relations with her at different times.
Redhorse bled to death, with a coroner determining she had been sexually assaulted with a blunt object.
Wilson set a two-week trial for the case. Jury selection should take about two days, he said.