SANFORD, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - The suspect in one of central Florida’s most well-known missing persons investigations was in Seminole County Court Friday to ask for a new trial in a separate case.
James Hataway is notorious for his connection to the disappearance of Tracy Ocasio. That case remains open as Hataway serves life in prison for attacking another Seminole County woman in 2008.
Friday, Hataway took the witness stand to testify that he was denied his right to a speedy trial in that case.
Hataway told the judge: “I felt like the state was throwing charges against me that weren't credible and I wanted to go to trial.”
Despite that that concern Hataway’s legal team wanted more time to prepare for trial and they got it.
According to Hataway’s new attorney, Steve Laurence, that is just one of the reasons Hataway should get a new trial. Hataway testified for about ten minutes. He never mentioned Ocasio.
Police say Hataway was the last person to see Ocasio before went missing in 2009. Hataway and Ocasio were seen leaving a bar together in Orlando’s MetroWest neighborhood.
The young woman’s mother has been following all of Hataway’s legal proceedings. Liz Ocasio was in court again Friday. "I really hope all of this is for nothing [and] that it's denied. He just needs to stay in jail for the rest of his life,” Liz Ocasio said.
Laurence is arguing that Hataway’s former lawyer was ineffective by failing to ask for certain jury instructions, neglecting to call an expert witness, and allowing a jailhouse informant to testify.
On the stand, the former attorney admitted he made those mistakes. “You don't see that very often. It's not very often that lawyers take the stand and say, 'Hey listen, we screwed up,’” Laurence said.
Prosecutors argued the defense strategy was sound based on information available at the time of the trial and changes wouldn’t have affected the outcome of the case. "He still attacked her, he still banged her head on the ground and said ‘don't make me kill you.’ The things that he did show that he was trying to kill that poor girl and he deserves everything he got,” Liz Ocasio said.
The judge will take several weeks to make a decision.