Saturday, April 20, 2024

Ashley Monturio appears in Cambridge District Court in September in a screen capture from WBZ-TV reporting.

Drivers facing criminal charges in connection with the deaths of two Cambridge pedestrians last fall have not yet been tried, months after the victims died in separate incidents.

The suspects have remained free without bail but are forbidden to drive.

One of them, Daniel Desroche of Methuen, is scheduled for trial June 27. Desroche is charged with negligent operation in the death of Jie Zhao, 27, who died Oct. 5 after Desroche’s dump truck ran over her as she walked behind while it was backing up through a Cambridgeport intersection.

The other driver, Ashley Monturio of Pembroke, has no trial date yet; her next hearing is scheduled for July 11. Monturio is charged with leaving the scene of an accident that killed Romelia Gallardo, 80, on Sept. 6. Surveillance video showed Monturio’s car striking Gallardo as the elderly woman rolled her walker in a parking lot of the LBJ Apartments public housing development on Erie Street, where she lived, according to court documents. Monturio allegedly left before police and an ambulance crew arrived, telling an emergency dispatcher on the phone that she needed to go to a job interview.

Desroche’s attorney, Ronald Ranta, has called Zhao’s death a tragic accident but said his client’s actions were not criminal. Monturio’s lawyer, Thomas Hoopes, declined to comment last month. Another attorney for Monturio said shortly after she was arrested that she was “deeply saddened and very apologetic.”

It’s not unusual for court cases to be postponed multiple times. Massachusetts court officials have adopted time standards for disposition of criminal cases based on the severity of the charges. The accusations against Desroche and Monturio fall in the more severe category because both could be sentenced to a year or more of confinement if convicted; the standards call for such cases to be decided within 12 months.

Deadlines for moving through intermediate waypoints such as a pretrial hearing or trial are shorter. The guideline calls for a pre-trial hearing within 45 days after arraignment and a trial within 195 days, or six and a half months. It appears that neither case meets all those time standards, but there is no penalty for delays. Desroche faces a maximum sentence of two years; Monturio, up to 10 years.

The court system keeps track of performance, but there is no data from Cambridge District Court in the past two years and none from other district courts during most of that period.

Court files in the Monturio and Desroche cases show multiple continuances but don’t indicate the reason. At a Feb. 13 court date when Desroche’s case was postponed, Ranta said in an interview that prosecutors were waiting for a “forensic report” from State Police, which must be given to the defense. A Boston Globe story on Feb. 6 said the State Police unit that investigates accidents had not completed reports on 321 incidents that occurred in the past five years and more than one-third of those cases, many involving deaths, were pending for more than a year.

Ranta didn’t return a message left for him asking whether the State Police had completed a report on Zhao’s death. Hoopes declined to comment when asked if delays in State Police reports had played a part in the postponements in the Monturio case.

Monturio’s prosecution could be bumped up to Superior Court, which could further delay it. District courts generally hear cases in felonies involving sentences of up to five years. A notation in Monturio’s case file says jurisdiction of the district court hasn’t been established.

Asked whether prosecutors are planning to move the case to Superior Court, Meghan Kelly, spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, said she could not comment except to say the case is currently in District Court.