The attorney for a man convicted of a Schenectady murder two decades ago asked Wednesday for more time to prepare for a hearing the defense hopes will result in a new trial.
The prosecutor in the case did not oppose the delay. He said later that he is keeping an open mind, but must see more from the defense before supporting any bid for a new trial.
The hearing was ordered by the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court in March to determine whether what the defense says is new testimony in the murder case of Eric Page is enough to grant a new trial.
Defense attorney Michael Mansion said later Wednesday that he asked for the delay due to the difficulties that come with retracing 20-year-old steps, mainly trying to locate all the original witnesses.
“Trying to locate witnesses after two weeks can sometimes be difficult,” he said. “After two decades, it can be nearly impossible.”
Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago approved the request and scheduled the case to return to court June 30, at which time she will set a date for the hearing.
Page, now 37, was convicted in Schenectady County Court in 1994 of the murder of Ralph Vilaneuva at a Strong Street apartment, as well as the attempted murder of Marvin Grimsley. Page has consistently maintained his innocence, but had previously lost appeals.
The current issues in the case surround an affidavit submitted in January 2012 from a new witness in the case. The man contended — nearly two decades after the crime — that he saw a man other than Page sell crack cocaine to Grimsley that day. That man also later confessed to the shooting, the witness contended.
At trial, Grimsley testified it was Page who sold them crack cocaine that day and that Page returned for payment later. When he wasn’t paid, he fired two shots, one killing Vilaneuva and the other wounding Grimsley.
Prosecutor Philip Mueller said the burden of proof at this point is on the defense. His office has offered assistance, he said, but the defense is going it alone for now.
Mueller said that unless they see something beyond what they’ve seen so far, he will oppose a new trial. He noted the report of a confession from someone else is secondhand, and nearly two decades old.
“There are lots of reasons to be skeptical about this,” Mueller said.
“At the same time, we’re not going to close our minds to the possibility.”