A Hermiston man seeking release before his murder trial will have his request heard at the end of the month, a judge decided on Thursday.
Tyree Houfmuse, 35, appeared in the Hermiston Circuit Court on Thursday. His attorney Kara Davis requested a motion to release, while District Attorney Dan Primus requested a motion to continue the trial. The trial was set to begin April 30, but at the end of February the state asked to delay while prosecutors waited for more test results from the state crime lab. Davis said Houfmuse would then have had to sit in jail for six additional months while being presumptively innocent.
Judge Eva Temple set a new hearing date for March 27, when she will hear requests for a motion to release and a motion to continue the trial.
Temple also told Houfmuse, who did not speak in court, that he could potentially have another settlement hearing. Houfmuse had a settlement conference in December 2017, but no deal was reached.
Houfmuse is charged with murder, manslaughter, felon in possession of a firearm and unlawful use of a weapon in the death of James Cragun. He has been in jail since he was arrested in June, with bail set at more than $1 million.
Houfmuse is claiming self defense. In court documents, Davis states Cragun was violent and violated restraining orders not to contact his ex-girlfriend. Davis cited in court documents, and again in court on Thursday, several text messages Cragun sent to his girlfriend. She said the texts referred to Houfmuse, who is black, using a racial slur and stated that he was going to kill Houfmuse.
Houfmuse was aware of the threats the night they fought, Davis said, and contends Cragun had a gun and charged Houfmuse. Cragun died from a gunshot wound.
Davis said the state had already received tests saying the primary DNA on the gun belonged to Cragun.
“The only new tests say they can’t locate Mr. Houfmuse’s DNA on the gun that fired the fatal bullet,” she said.
Davis said all the evidence that the prosecution has is consistent with the information that’s been shared so far.
“How this would justify continuance, I don’t know,” Davis said. “They’ve had eight months. At any point during that time, they could have requested testing. Meanwhile, my client is sitting in jail, presumptively innocent.”
Primus said at the pre-trial conference the state expressed concern that they would not be able to move forward as expected.
“The state’s failure to talk to the crime lab for a case that happened Memorial Day weekend of 2017 is not a justification for keeping my client in jail for six more months,” Davis said.
Contact Jayati Ramakrishnan at 541-564-4534 or firstname.lastname@example.org.