WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — A judge has scheduled a trial date for an Ecuadorean man charged with being drunk when he dragged a Milford motorcyclist to his death, even though the defendant has not yet been found competent for trial.
Worcester Superior Court Judge James Lemire on Thursday scheduled Nicolas Dutan-Guaman's trial to start April 3 at the request of the defense and prosecution.
Dutan-Guaman faces charges including second-degree murder and motor vehicle homicide while driving negligently and under the influence of alcohol in connection with the August 2011 death of 23-year-old Matthew Denice. Denice had just graduated from college.
Dutan-Guaman, 36, ran a stop sign in Milford, hitting Denice's motorcycle and dragging him under his pickup truck for a quarter-mile before stopping, prosecutors said. He pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.
Dutan-Guaman was found incompetent for trial by a different judge in April because of language barriers and lack of knowledge about the U.S. legal system. The defendant has a limited understanding of English and Spanish because he speaks Quechua, a language indigenous to South America. The judge told his lawyer, Peter Ettenberg, to find an interpreter and educate his client on the legal system. Although he is of low intelligence, there were no mental deficiencies that would prevent him from being ruled competent, the judge ruled at the time.
Dutan-Guaman is competent for trial, Ettenberg said Thursday. "There's been no official determination, but we do think he's capable of going forward," the attorney said.
The judge might rule on the competency issue at a hearing scheduled for Oct. 11.
Denice's mother, Maureen Maloney, said she was "cautiously optimistic" that the case will move forward.
"It is a long way away, but we've said all along that we're going to see this through, no matter how long it takes to do it right," she told The Milford Daily News.
Dutan-Guaman is in the U.S. illegally, according to federal immigration officials. The case touched off a fierce debate in Massachusetts about immigration enforcement.