The Pima County Attorney’s Office has dismissed sexual assault and kidnapping charges against a Tucson man who is facing murder charges in the slayings of his wife and former cellmate at the Pima County jail.
The County Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges against King Yates on Aug. 25, after the case was returned to a grand jury, which declined to issue charges, according to the motion to dismiss filed in Pima County Superior Court.
Yates was indicted by a grand jury on June 29, but a month later his attorney filed a motion to remand the case to a grand jury, saying the state failed to tell the first grand jury that the victim was schizophrenic with a history of hallucinations, including while he was housed in the jail.
Vincent Frey, an attorney for Yates, wrote in the motion that the alleged assault took place in March, but wasn’t reported to the jail’s medical staff until April.
Because of the delay in reporting the event, there was no forensic evidence and the case rested entirely on the victim’s testimony, the motion said, adding that if the grand jury had been informed of the victim’s mental-health history, no charges would have been brought against Yates.
It’s unclear when the case was re-presented to a grand jury, but the motion to dismiss notes that the decision to not issue charges was unanimous.
Yates appeared in court Monday and Tuesday for hearings and case-management conferences in his other three active cases.
Last November, Yates was arrested on charges of prohibited possession of a firearm, less than two weeks before he was arrested in connection with the shooting death of his wife, Cassandra Yates.
In April, Yates’ then-cellmate, Branden Roth, was found dead in their cell after having been beaten with a battery-filled sock.
Roth’s autopsy results showed he died from asphyxiation, and Yates is facing first-degree murder charges in connection with the death.
On Monday, Pima County Superior Court Judge Howard Fell granted the state’s request for DNA testing by an independent lab and denied Frey’s request to have the process videotaped, which the laboratory doesn’t allow due to potential contamination issues.
Because the DNA swab is the only evidence of any contact between Yates and Roth, Frey was adamant that a record of the testing procedure needed to exist in the event that the lab technician made a mistake.
“I’m not a scientist myself, but it seems pretty simple,” Fell said, adding that recording the test would give a defense attorney the opportunity to argue on appeal that the test was contaminated, if Yates is convicted.
Yates was focused on the proceedings, leaning in to talk to Frey before asking Fell how the one-month delay for testing would affect his right to a speedy trial.
The state has until Dec. 5 to decide if it intends to pursue the death penalty in the case, having just filed its second stipulation to extend the time to provide death-penalty notice and recently requesting Yates’ Juvenile Court and mental-health records.
Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at email@example.com or 573-4191. Twitter: @caitlinschmidt
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