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Murder trial postponed: No new date set for Sean Bryant, Michael McCauley

The trial of two men accused in the 2018 slaying of 70-year-old Stan Norman has been vacated yet again and will not take place this month, attorneys say.

On Wednesday, Nevada County Superior Court Judge Robert Tice-Raskin granted a motion of continuance filed by a defense attorney for one of the accused men. The decision means that the trial, which was previously set to start this coming Wednesday after already being delayed on five separate occasions, will not take place this month.

No new trial date has been set.

Michael McCauley, 43, and Sean Bryant, 53, have both pleaded not guilty to the murder of Norman, a Vietnam veteran who prosecutors say was killed by the accused men at a Nevada City residence in 2018.

After numerous delays largely related to complications resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Bryant and McCauley were set to stand trial Sept. 3.

However, just several days before the proceeding was set to get underway, McCauley’s defense attorney, Kelly Babineau, filed a motion requesting that the trial be delayed due to Nevada County’s recent rise in COVID-19 cases. In briefs filed in court, Babineau argued that the skyrocketing case numbers would pose a significant threat to the health and safety of jurors and others involved in an in-person trial.

In addition to the health risks, Babineau also argued that the threat of COVID-19 would make it extremely difficult for the accused to receive a fair trial.

While expressing reluctance to vacate the proceeding altogether, Tice-Raskin agreed to delay the trial to next week, and hold a readiness conference this week to decide whether the COVID-19 case numbers were significant enough to vacate the trial yet again.

At the Wednesday hearing, Tice-Raskin ruled in favor of Babineau’s motion, granting her request to vacate the trial date. The court will hold a hearing Oct. 1 to reassess the situation and potentially set a new trial date, said District Attorney Jesse Wilson, who is handling the prosecution of the case.

Tice-Raskin made the decision to grant a continuance of the case after Babineau revealed that McCauley would have been unable to attend the trial if had started next week due to an undisclosed medical condition that he is dealing with, according to David Brooks, who is Bryant’s defense attorney. No further details are currently available about McCauley’s condition due to laws that protect the privacy of defendant’s medical records.

Since being arrested in 2018 for Norman’s murder, Bryant and McCauley have remained in custody.

Last week, Nevada County health officials sounded the alarm about the community’s COVID-19 case numbers, with cases reaching a weekly record high on Sept. 7, according to Nevada County Director of Health and Human Services Ryan Gruver.

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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