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Judge denies Correa's speedy trial motion, citing 'extraordinary times'

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Superior Court Judge Arthur C. Hadden on Wednesday denied Sergio Correa's motion for a speedy trial in the Dec. 20, 2017, murders of three members of the Lindquist family, saying the right to life of all the parties involved in a trial have to be protected during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hadden, on the bench of a New London courtroom, spoke through a mask to Correa, who also wore a mask while attending the hearing by video feed from the New Haven Correctional Center. The Department of Correction, which has struggled to contain the virus, has strictly limited the number of prisoners taken to court appearances, and the Judicial Branch is operating with reduced locations and schedules.

Having a jury trial would endanger the lives of all of the court personnel, the attorneys, jurors and witnesses, along with all of their respective friends and families, the judge said. It also would endanger Correa's life and all those who are incarcerated with him.

"This court takes judicial notice that over 100,000 people have died (in the United States) due to the COVID-19 pandemic," Hadden said. "It is obvious the right to life has to be protected, and the court is taking an extraordinary measure in denying the right to a speedy trial."

Hadden went on to promptly deny a motion to reduce Correa's bond and release him while awaiting trial, citing the seriousness of the alleged crimes and Correa's criminal history.

"We are dealing with an episode in which three individuals were murdered," Hadden said. "The allegations are that these were particularly violent episodes, and the defendant has a proclivity to violence."

Correa and his sister, Ruth Correa, are accused of driving to Griswold from Hartford to meet Matthew Lindquist, who Ruth Correa said agreed to let them steal guns from the Lindquist home in exchange for drugs. The sister told state police they fatally stabbed Matthew Lindquist and left his body in a wooded area before going to the Lindquist home and torturing and killing his parents, Janet and Kenneth Lindquist, before stealing electronics and other valuables and setting the home on fire.

Ruth Correa, also incarcerated, has agreed to testify against her brother in exchange for a 40-year prison sentence.

Sergio Correa's trial — along with every other criminal defendant's jury trial — has been postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic. On March 19, Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order suspending the time requirements for speedy trials.

Still, Correa, who faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, pleaded not guilty and has said repeatedly that he wants his trial immediately. At his urging, public defenders Joseph Lopez and Corrie Mainville last month filed the motion for speedy trial and followed up with the bond review motion so that he would not have to "languish in detention while awaiting a trial."

Correa has been incarcerated since February 2018, far longer than the eight months required for a speedy trial motion, and has said during several court appearances prior to the pandemic that he wants his trial.

But even the brief court appearance demonstrated the difficulties presented by the pandemic. The mandatory masks muffled the voices of the parties, and attorneys and staff often had to be in close proximity to one another to maneuver into place. The trial would require a jury of 12 regular members and four alternates, who would be unable to practice social distancing.

Mainville suggested the trial could be held in a different venue, as other states have done, such as an arena, coliseum or banquet facility. State's Attorney Michael L. Regan said there are no such venues available in Connecticut.

"What jurors are we going to select who want to sit during the pandemic at a lengthy trial?" Regan said.

The judge continued the case to July 15 for a status hearing and told Correa his case is not being ignored.

"Let me assure you, everyone, the state, your counsel and the court are interested in proceeding with this matter as rapidly as possible," Hadden said.

Eric Lindquist, brother and son of the victims, had arranged to attend the hearing after speaking with a victim's advocate. He said he had been geared up for the trial this spring but is no longer upset with the delay.

The Day was able to attend with permission from Judicial Branch officials.

k.florin@theday

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