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Published: Wednesday, 2/11/2009

Murder trial postponed again

The murder trial for a Fulton County man suspected in the 1991 death of his wife was postponed again in Lucas County Common Pleas Court yesterday to give attorneys time to argue merits of a defense motion to dismiss the indictment.

Thomas Zich, 61, is accused of strangling his wife, Mary Jane, whose body was found in the trunk of her car Dec. 18, 1991, in East Toledo. Mr. Zich was arrested June 1, 2007, by the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force.

Yesterday, Judge Gene Zmuda vacated a March 2 trial date and set a new date of May 4.

In July, attorney Alan Konop filed a motion that said the defense is at a disadvantage because it could not challenge the competency of a key witness for the state, who was 3 years old at the time.

A witness under 10 must be declared competent to stand trial - a requirement that is no longer applicable because the witness is now 20. Mr. Konop argued that the delay in prosecution unfairly prevented the defense from challenging the competency of the witness.

In January, Mr. Konop supplemented the motion to dismiss the indictment with a report from a local clinical psychologist who called the witness "incapable of receiving [true] impressions of the facts and transactions or of relating them truly."

Prosecutors responded that there was no proof the delay was intentional, and the defense provided no evidence of actual prejudice. During oral arguments on the motion late last year, prosecutors pointed out that the defense could cross-examine the witness, and the jury would determine her credibility.

Judge Zmuda set a March 23 hearing date to determine whether psychologist Gregory Forgac could be used as an expert on the issue.

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