Pinyon homicide defendant seeks trial in juvenile court

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Judge grants review

At the Aug. 18 hearing, the attorney for Cristin Conrad Smith, one of two defendants in the 2006 triple homicide in Pinyon Pines, filed a motion to move his trial in Riverside County Superior Court to juvenile court.

Smith was a juvenile when the murders occurred. His lawyer, John Dolan of Indio, argued that the request is consistent with Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, which was approved last November.

The law “requires that a judge, not prosecutor, must decide whether juveniles should be tried in adult court,” Dolan said in the motion to the court. Smith was about five weeks from his 18th birthday when the murders occurred.

“Under Proposition 57, even those who have committed the most heinous crimes, and even if they are nearer to the age of majority, are entitled to a fitness hearing and the exercise of judicial discretion before transfer to adult court,” Dolan argued.

Judge Bernard Schwartz granted the request over the district attorney’s objection, including reference to a prior Riverside Court case (Walker), which rejected these arguments.

“The result of that hearing will determine whether or not defendant Smith will be tried in adult or juvenile court,” wrote John Hall, public information officer for the DA’s Office.

The fitness hearing will address several issues, Hall explained. “The judge considers five factors in making that determination: 1) the degree of criminal sophistication, 2) whether the defendant can be rehabilitated prior to the expiration of the juvenile court’s jurisdiction, 3) any prior delinquent history, 4) success of any prior attempts by the juvenile court to rehabilitate the defendant, and 5) the circumstances and gravity of the case.”

As of Aug. 28, a date for the fitness hearing had not been set; however, a hearing on the motion and the fitness report is schedule for Oct. 20.

Schwartz did deny two other motions submitted by Smith’s attorney.

In April, Dolan challenged affidavits used by the Sheriff’s Department to search Smith’s home in 2007 and to wire tap his cell phone in 2012. This was the basis for a motion to suppress evidence gathered by investigators that led to Smith’s arrest. Based on his review of the motions, objections and case law, Schwartz denied the full motion.

The judge also denied the effort to move Smith’s trial to a different venue.

As previously reported, DA Michael Hestrin announced that he would not seek the death penalty for Robert Pape, the other of the two defendants.

The murders of Jon Hayward, Vicki Friedli and Vicki’s daughter, Becky, occurred on Sept. 17, 2006, in Pinyon Pines. Becky’s body was found burning in a wheelbarrow outside the house. The other bodies were found inside the burning home.

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