The new date set to begin the murder trial of 19-year-old Nathaniel Fujita is just six days later than previously scheduled in spite of several legal developments that could have created a greater delay.
Fujita is accused of killing Lauren Astley, his ex-girlfriend and Wayland High School classmate, in July 2011 and dumping her body in a marsh on the edge of town.
At Friday's pre-trial conference, Fujita, dressed in dark pants and a blue shirt and tie, sat quietly as Middlesex Superior Court Judge S. Jane Haggerty set future court dates, including the start of his trial on Jan. 28, 2013.
The trial was originally scheduled to begin in October 2012, but defense attorney William Sullivan's request in September to possibly utilize an insanity defense pushed the start date back to Jan. 22, 2013. Then, in October, Fujita indicated he wanted to part ways with Sullivan and hire a new attorney, a move that would likely have further delayed the trial start.
Ultimately, Fujita decided to maintain his relationship with Sullivan, and McGovern Friday asked that the trial move forward as quickly as possible.
"A number of the witnesses are in college," McGovern said, explaining that pushing the date back could conflict with exam schedules. "I really urge that we stick with as close to the original date as possible."
McGovern asked and was granted a trial start date of Jan. 28, 2013, just six days later than previously scheduled. She estimated the trial would last about three weeks with a week for jury empanelment.
"I do think there's great interest here in trying to move forward," Haggerty said.
Upcoming court dates for Fujita include a status date on Dec. 18 at 2 p.m., a final pre-trial conference on Jan. 17, and the trial start at 9 a.m. on Jan. 13, 2013.