Indictment makes trial process “more efficient”
In a bid to avoid further delays and move accused murderer Giselle Esteban’s often-delayed murder case closer to trial, prosecutors sought and obtained a grand jury indictment.
An indictment is a formal accusation that a person has committed a crime. The grand jury indictment expedites the trial by eliminating the need for a preliminary hearing, where a judge determines whether or not there is enough evidence against a defendant for the case to proceed to trial.
According to Prosecutor Butch Ford, an Alameda County criminal grand jury indicted Esteban last Wednesday after a three-day hearing. The 470-page transcript of the hearing is sealed. Ford says his office sought a grand jury indictment to make the trial process “more efficient.”
Arraignment and plea delayed . . . yet again!
On several previous occasions, Esteban’s pregnancy delayed the trial. She gave birth to a baby boy in late November. She appeared in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland today, Tuesday, December 20, on the charge contained in the indictment, but once again, her arraignment and plea have been delayed – this time at the request of her attorney, Andrea Auer.
Because she is busy with another murder case, Auer requested that the hearing be postponed until February 2012. However, Judge Carrie Panetta denied her request, granting only a four-week extension, until January 20.
According to Auer, “Grand juries are used in less than one percent of ‘garden variety’ criminal cases.” Auer says the grand jury indictment deprives her of the opportunity to hear witness testimony against Esteban, as well as the ability to confront and cross-examine the witnesses.
Giselle Esteban was arrested in September 2011 (based on DNA evidence and cell phone records) and charged with the murder of 26-year-old Michelle Le, a nursing student who disappeared in late May of this year. Le had been attending Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, California. She disappeared from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center parking lot in Hayward. Her remains were found by searchers in a wilderness area near Sunol/Pleasanton a few weeks after Esteban’s arrest.
Esteban has not yet entered a plea
Le’s cousin, Kristine Dinh, and other family members and friends attended Esteban’s hearing today. They declined comment.