Third time not a charm as trial delayed again

Chip Smith is accused of murdering Chris Payton in 2001

KINGMAN - The third trial of a Golden Valley man has been postponed indefinitely.

Judge Rick Williams agreed to vacate the Feb. 3 trial date of Chip M. Smith, 37, until further notice after both sides agreed they would not be ready in time.

Smith is accused of the second-degree murder of Chris Payton, 30, of Golden Valley in August 2001.

Smith's attorney, Vincent Iannone, told the court he was having trouble getting payment disbursed to court expert John Nordby of Final Analysis Forensic of Washington state.

The County Attorney's Office agreed to the postponement of the trial date.

Williams also notified the attorney's of a possible conflict of interest he might have with the case. Williams apparently represented a co-defendant of Smith's in another case and worked with the same investigator who is assigned in this case.

Williams did not believe that the connection between the cases was strong enough to reassign the case to another judge, but he would if either attorney requested it.

Neither the CAO or Iannone requested that the case be moved to another judge. Williams vacated the trial date and set a status hearing at 2 p.m. on Feb. 20.

Smith is accused of shooting Payton in the head. Investigators originally thought Payton had died in a car accident after his pickup flipped on Santa Maria Road in 2001.

It was only after medical examiners found a bullet wound in Payton's head during an autopsy that his death was ruled a homicide.

Smith's first trial ended March 21, 2002, after the 10-woman, two-man jury declared itself deadlocked after deliberating for two days. The judge declared a mistrial.

A second jury convicted him of the charges, and he was sentenced to 22 years in prison in October 2003.

Smith appealed the conviction, stating that Judge Richard Weiss mishandled the dismissal of a juror.

The Arizona Court of Appeals found fault with the handling of the juror and set aside Smith's conviction and sentence.

The case was returned to the Mohave County Superior Court for a third trial.