The trial of a man accused of attempted murder and rape will be postponed again after a juror tested positive for COVID-19.
Cole Lee Peters was charged in January 2020 with two class AA felony counts of gross sexual imposition, a class A felony count of attempted murder, class C felony counts of felonious restraint, terrorizing and domestic violence causing a serious injury. A judge declared a mistrial in August after a procedural issue during jury selection.
The second attempt at a trial began Monday, Sept. 20, and included the beginning of testimony from the woman Peters is accused of attacking. On Thursday morning, Sept. 23, however, when the trial was supposed to resume, a juror called the courthouse and said she had tested positive for COVID-19.
Because of that she had to quarantine and Rustad noted the jurors had been in close proximity, so there was a possibility of further spread.
Northwest District Judge Josh Rustad told the defense and prosecution that if both sides agreed, the trial could move forward with fewer than 12 jurors. Nathan Madden, assistant state’s attorney for Williams County, said he wasn’t comfortable with that because of the potential for appeal.
Eric Baumann, Peters’ public defender, said his client wanted the trial to continue on Thursday if possible, but that it should restart as soon as possible.
“He has been in custody for quite some time,” Baumann said.
Rustad decided to continue the trial until Wednesday, Oct. 13. It will resume with the same jurors.
“It put everyone in a situation where the court felt it had to grant a continuance,” Rustad said.
The case began in the early hours of Dec. 28, 2019, when a Williston police officer on duty in the area of Highway 2 and Highway 85 noticed a vehicle run a stop light.
When the officer pulled the vehicle over saw the driver, a woman, had serious injuries.
Her mouth and eyes were swollen and her face was bleeding from multiple cuts.
The woman told the officer that Peters had assaulted her at a room at the Prairie Suites Motel, which is in Williams County, and that she was driving herself to the hospital.
Rustad said the decision to delay the trial wasn’t easy.
“The court doesn’t want to (grant a continuance), either,” he said. “I understand the inconvenience for everyone.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the prosecution had to finish the testimony from the woman Peters is accused of assaulting and one other witness. The defense wasn’t sure how many witnesses it would call, Baumann told Rustad.
Rustad said he would set aside three days for the trial, but expected it to finish in two.