February Winfield trial possible
ALPENA — The postponed trial of Alpena’s Heather Winfield is tentatively scheduled for early February, but that date may be bumped again because additional evidence may be required to fight the charges against Winfield, defense attorneys told a judge today.
Attorneys for Winfield — a former Alpena Public Schools teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with a student — said an analysis of recently received information may uncover a need to request still more data linked to electronic devices used by Winfield and her alleged victim.
Winfield denies the accusations against her. The News does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
The trial, which was scheduled to begin on Monday and last two weeks, was postponed when last-minute evidence — on which attorneys had been waiting over a year — arrived, requiring time for analysis by the defense.
Location-tracking data collected by Google, specific to several hotel rooms where Winfield is alleged to have met the student for sexual encounters, provided no substantial data about either party, possibly because location tracking was disabled on their devices, Alpena County Prosecutor Cynthia Muszynski said last week.
An expert hired by the defense will analyze the data within the next 10 weeks, but that analysis may raise the possibility of asking for more data that could prove Winfield’s innocence, according to defense attorney Alan Curtis.
Possible trial dates of Feb. 1 to 12 were suggested, but Judge Roy Hayes was reluctant to commit to those dates with the possibility of a further delay still lingering.
Whenever the Winfield trial is scheduled, Hayes said, he will clear his docket in Charlevoix County, where trials are already being scheduled as far out as April. Hayes is handling the Winfield case because of local judges’ overfull docket.
“It’s not your fault,” Hayes told both parties. “But, counsel could be aware of the fact that this adjournment caused huge hardship for my docket in Charlevoix.”
Muszynski, who opposed the initial postponement, urged Hayes to decide the trial date as soon as possible, as many of the prosecution’s witnesses are associated with the school system and need to make family plans around the school’s spring break.
Defense attorneys will report back to Hayes at a Nov. 20 hearing, at which time, if possible, trial dates will be set.