OPD wants prosecution stopped from having proposed experts testify in case

The Office of the Public Defender wants the Superior Court to exclude from testifying in a murder case any experts proposed by the CNMI government who have not been designated at this point because the prosecution has allegedly provided no notice to the defense of such experts.

Assistant public defender Heather M. Zona, counsel for Alfonso Sebastian Parongan, said those precluded from testifying include any medical, psychological, and law enforcement witnesses that the government intends to call as experts.

The Office of the Attorney General has charged Parongan with the murder of his landlord. He allegedly repeatedly stabbed her in Chalan Kanoa in 2017. The landlord’s husband was also injured in the attack.

Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho will hear hear Parongan’s motion to exclude improperly noticed and unnoticed expert testimony on May 15.

Zona said that Parongan served the OAG last Nov. 9, 2017, with a request for the prosecution to provide “the name, qualifications and a written summary of the testimony of any person that the prosecution intends to call as an expert witness.”

Zona said the court set April 17, 2019, as the due date for the designation of expert witnesses.

Zona said that allowing expert evidence to be admitted without notice will promote unfair surprise at trial, compromise Parongan’s right to cross-examination, and his rights to due process and a fair trial.

Zona said that, without any notice of the nature of expert testimony, Parongan will be extremely prejudiced by the introduction of such “expert” evidence against him at trial.

The defense counsel said Parongan cannot determine whether he needs to present a defense, is unable to determine what that defense might be in response to expert testimony, and cannot retain his own expert in a short time to rebut whatever it is that the government’s experts say.

She said Parongan is indigent and approval for any expert and payment of fees would need to be approved first by the court.

“Retaining an expert on such short notice to testify in the CNMI would no doubt prove difficult, if not impossible,” Zona said, adding that allowing the government to have experts who have not been named prior to trial will deny Parongan a fair opportunity to prepare his defense, which is his right.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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