Candace Duran murder charge: Why a verdict hasn’t come down five years later


The Desert Sun ran a two-part investigation Sunday and today into Candace Duran, a 24-year-old Palm Springs woman who is charged with murder and racked up increasing criminal charges while out on $1 million bail.

 Part 1: Accused killer ran free for years

Part 2: Family of stabbing victim talks for the first time

It’s among the most well-read stories this summer.

Among the most popular questions from readers: How has it been five years and the court has neither convicted nor exonerated Duran?

The Sixth Amendment guarantees us the right to a speedy trial, which means a defense team could speed up the process if it wanted.

In Duran’s case, though, the defense team has made at least 15 motions to continue hearings to another date.

Another possible explanation for the time that’s passed? Duran has had eight different defense attorneys appear on her behalf, and 13 prosecutors have appeared at some point.

On the prosecution side, attorneys have switched out sometimes because of internal promotions at the Riverside County District Attorney.

“I was promoted to a supervisor. As a supervisor they don’t want you carrying cases, so it was transferred to someone else within the homicide,” said Fransdal, one of the original prosecutors on the case.

Fourteen different judges have also appeared —  more than are even assigned to work at the Indio courts at any given time.

Highlights of the case timeline:

Sept. 23, 2007: Howard Villanueva, 40, is stabbed to death in a Palm Springs home.

Sept. 24, 2007: After hours with the police, Candace Duran, 19, is booked into jail on a murder charge.

Sept. 26, 2007: The Riverside County District Attorney files a murder charge. Duran appears in court later that day and pleads not guilty.

Sept. 28, 2007: Duran posts $1 million bail and is released from jail.

July 17, 2008: During a preliminary hearing, attorneys present the death certificate and photos of stab wounds, and Palm Springs Police Officer Rhonda Long testifies. Judge John J. Ryan decides there is enough evidence to send Duran to trial.

Since then, attorneys from both sides have met in front of various judges 30 times — mostly in trial readiness conferences, which is an informal chance for attorneys to negotiate the case in front of a judge.

Duran is due back in court for the 45th hearing in this case on Friday.