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Murder trial delayed

The trial for two men accused of murdering Vietnam veteran Stan Norman will not take place this month, as the resignation of the case’s lead prosecutor has raised new challenges for the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office.

With the trial having already been rescheduled on three separate occasions, the 2018 homicide case had been reset for a July 27 trial date, with co-defendants Sean Bryant, 53, and Michael McCauley, 43, expected to face first-degree murder charges in connection with Norman’s death. Bryant also faces a torture charge. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Last week, Chris Walsh — the county’s former assistant district attorney, who had prosecuted the case since charges were originally filed against Bryant and McCauley in 2018 — resigned, leaving it initially unclear which county prosecutor would take over the case. Jesse Wilson, who on Monday took office as the county’s new district attorney, said he is now handling the case.



At a Friday hearing for the defendants, prosecutors said that Walsh’s departure had created challenges in terms of their readiness to bring the case to trial. When Nevada County Superior Court Judge Robert Tice-Raskin asked when the District Attorney’s Office wished to begin the trial, Wilson said that his office would prefer a date after September.

“The people’s position is that we would not be prepared for a trial within the next 60 days…our preference would be to go out farther than that,” the district attorney told Tice-Raskin.



During Friday’s hearing, McCauley’s attorney, Kelly Lynn Babineau, requested for a trial date to be set that same day, as McCauley withdrew his time waiver and asked for a trial within 60 days, in accordance with his rights under California law.

In something of a compromise to all parties, Tice-Raskin declined McCauley’s request to set a trial date at Friday’s hearing, but said he anticipates a date would be set at the case’s next pretrial hearing, which is on July 26.

BURDENSOME

Tice-Raskin emphasized that delaying the case’s resolution any further would only prove to be more burdensome for Norman’s family, as well as for the defendants, both of whom have been in custody for over three years awaiting trial.

“I would note that this is a 2018 case, and that it’s in the interest for all parties, as well as the public, to see this case set for trial,” the judge said.

At the case’s next hearing, Tice-Raskin is expected to consider a motion by Babineau to review McCauley’s bond status. If approved, the motion could allow McCauley to be released from custody on bail until the conclusion of his trial.

Bryant and McCauley have both been held without bail since their arrest in 2018.

Both men were originally due to stand trial on February 28, 2020, but that trial was ultimately postponed, and two subsequent trial dates for the case were also both vacated due to complications experienced by the court as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The co-defendants were first arrested around May 2018, in connection with the suspected murder of Norman, a 70-year-old Nevada County resident and Vietnam army veteran.

Prosecutors allege that Bryant, with help from McCauley, beat Norman to death at a Nevada City residence. The slaying purportedly took place in April 2018, but the two men were not arrested until the following month, after investigators had linked both suspects to Norman’s death.

Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at swyer@theunion.com

Sean Bryant
Michael McCauley

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