Defense for murder suspect Joseph Ward has judge step aside in murder case | TheUnion.com

Defense for murder suspect Joseph Ward has judge step aside in murder case

The defense attorney for murder suspect Joseph Ward has disqualified the judge presiding over the case, postponing his next appearance in Nevada County Superior Court until next year.

Either side can have a judge step aside one time in a defendant's case, a move Deputy Public Defender Tamara Zuromskis made Monday against Superior Court Judge Candace Heidelberger, said Chris Walsh, assistant district attorney.

"They don't need to state what the reason is," he added. "They can issue a blanket challenge.

"We have the right to do it as well, if we wanted to," Walsh said later.

Zuromskis couldn't be reached for comment.

The maneuver pushed 32-year-old Ward's case until Jan. 5. A new judge hasn't been appointed, Walsh said.

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Ward is accused of murder in connection with the June 7 death of Kenneth Pestana, 61. Authorities said that Pestana was found dead in a building on his Highway 20 property, about 10 miles northeast of Nevada City.

Authorities said they arrested Ward in Carson City a day after Pestana's body was found.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.