After months of delays, Raymond Clark III, the Yale animal lab technician charged with murdering Annie Le GRD ’13, is likely to show up to the New Haven Superior Court this morning to plead not guilty, his lawyers said over the weekend.
At the hearing, Clark’s lawyers are expected to tell Judge Roland Fasano that Clark will waive his right to a probable cause hearing, in which they would have argued that there is not enough evidence to justify charging him with murder. One of Clark’s lawyers, Beth Merkin, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment Monday, has reviewed materials the prosecution may use against her client and will recommend that he plead not guilty and proceed to trial, according to the Associated Press.
The move is not unexpected. Clark’s other lawyer, Joseph Lopez, told the News in October that his client would plead not guilty, regardless of whether a probable cause hearing would occur.
“The standard is very, very low [for proving probable cause],” Lopez said.
If, as expected, Clark pleads not guilty and the case proceeds to trial, the proceedings may not begin for up to a year and a half, New Haven-based trial lawyer David Grudberg ’82 said.
“It’s hard to generalize, but it could be years before this goes to trial,” he said.
He explained that the lawyers may find it difficult to select an unbiased jury pool, citing the current struggle to form one for the infamous 2007 Cheshire home invasion. Last week, jury selection started for the trial of Steven Hayes, who allegedly broke into a Cheshire home in 2007 and killed a mother and two children. Because of the notoriety of the crime within the state, legal experts said many jury candidates may have biases against Hayes. Although the candidates interviewed on the first and the third days were dismissed, on the second day, a retired editor from New Haven was selected as the first juror.
Grudberg said that, particularly for the Clark case, he expects the potential for a biased jury to be “very significant.”
Though Clark was supposed to appear in court Dec. 21, the hearing was put off until this morning because not all of the materials in the case had been made available to lawyers, Merkin said last month. John Waddock, the state prosecutor handling the case, said at the time that the postponement was necessary because of a backlog at the state forensics laboratory. (Waddock declined to comment for this story over the weekend.)
Because of the same backlog, Robert Berke — the attorney for Clark’s fiancée, Jennifer Hromadka, whose DNA has been collected in Le’s murder investigation — said Monday that he still has not received information on whether the DNA has been analyzed.
Though State Police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance said last month that the Le case was top priority and that the DNA evidence needed for Clark’s case to proceed has been examined, he acknowledged at the time that a backlog nevertheless “exists to a certain extent.”
Clark was arrested and charged with Le’s murder Sept. 17. He is being held at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Conn., on $3 million bond.
Vivian Yee and the Associated Press contributed reporting.