SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News)- Delays continue for a man accused of beating a Salt Lake City man to death with a baseball bat 2016 causing frustration for families on both sides of the case.
The family of the defendant, Andrew Burke Berry IV, 25, and the family of the victim, Timothy Houlihan, both sent letters pleading with the judge to stop any further delays after the fourth trial date in February was canceled.
In separate letters to Judge James T. Blanch, the families expressed their frustration in how long this case has taken and asked the judge to set a new trial date soon in order to stop the toll this case had taken on everyone involved.
“This prolonged process is taking a heavy toll on our family and Timothy’s close friends,” stated in the letter from Houlihan’s family. “We are all shocked by the ultra-violent act committed by the defendant in 2016 that unjustly ended Timothy’s life.”
Houlihan’s family said the 1,000+ days this case has taken has disrupted their ability to grieve and been a major disruption in their family as well as their work life.
“Homicide grief makes its way into just about every part of your life and is very difficult to process,” stated the letter.”When the legal justice aspect is an open issue it is even more agonizing.”
Houlihan’s family said they understand the importance and complexity of mental health competency, but two state appointed psychiatrists have both affirmed Berry’s ability to stand trial.
In their letter, Berry’s family stated the prolonged process has taken a toll on them and Berry, who they say acted in self defense and deserves a chance for the truth to be told regarding his abusive relationship with Houlihan, 39, whom he met six years ago.
“I am completely helpless and powerless as four separate trial dates have been canceled or postponed over the stretch of the 3 1/2 years he has been incarcerated,” stated in the letter from Berry’s family. “He has put his trust in the system that has failed him repeatedly and continues to fail him to this day.”
Berry’s family stated he has never been in jail before and continues to struggle each day he remains incarcerated and without the proper mental health treatment.
Berry was arrested on August 9, 2016, after police were called to the Trolley Place Apartments near 520 South 500 East around 7 p.m. on a report of an assault. When they arrived they found Houlihan dead inside the apartment.
Berry, who was still on scene, told police he struck Houlihan with a baseball bat who then fell unconscious onto the bed. He said he then hit the him a couple more times “just to make sure that he was done,” documents state.
The first jury trial was scheduled in August 2017 but was rescheduled for March 2018. That trial was later canceled. After multiple delays, another jury trial was set for May 2019 but was canceled the month before after a competency review was requested by Berry’s attorney.
“The Defendant is suffering from multiple delusions about the facts of this case and the roles played by his defense counsel and defense team in this case,” stated Berry’s attorney in the request for a competency review. “For example, the Defendant believes his defense counsel, defense team and his family are engaged in a conspiracy against him to ensure his guilt to the charge against him, and to live stream his case court proceedings and his daily confinement in the jail to a national audience for profit.”
Court documents show the results of two different competency reviews were received and a new trial date was scheduled for February 2020 which was canceled two weeks before the trial was set to begin.
Court documents show a motion was filed in January by the family of Houlihan asserting their right to a speedy disposition and a request for assignment of a senior judge.
“This will be the fifth time trial has been set and prepared for and anticipated by the victim’s family, who yearn to honor the victim by attending every hearing at great personal expense both financially and mentally,” as stated in court documents. “No one—the victims included—would want to deprive the defendant of a reasonable opportunity to present a defense. But the defendant has had ample opportunity to investigate and prepare a defense. On the other side of the equation, the victims have suffered tremendously because of the delay.”
A new jury trial has been set for August 6-20, 2020.
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