The fate of a Morgan County man convicted of first-degree murder will remain on hold for at least another week.
22-year-old Dustin Finlaw appeared in Morgan County Court this morning for sentencing after a jury convicted him of first-degree murder in January. Finlaw was found guilty of the stabbing death of Robert Utter in Meredosia in 2018.
Finlaw, who has represented himself as a pro se defendant since June of last year, filed a motion for a new trial on February 15th arguing that both the court and the prosecution acted improperly and accuses the closing arguments were prejudicial and denied him a right to a fair trial.
Before opening arguments could begin for consideration of a new trial this morning, Finlaw made an oral motion to continue the hearing telling Judge Jack Davis III that he was not ready to proceed, and he “did not know what was going to happen today regarding the new trial hearing” and that he did not have any of his information for his argument with him.
Finlaw also said he had found new errors from the trial that needed to be addressed.
Morgan County State’s Attorney Gray Noll objected to the motion, saying that Finlaw has had plenty of time to prepare for the hearing. Noll also argued that Finlaw had 30 days to file for an appeal, and any new errors could not be considered.
After a brief recess to confer with scheduling, Judge Davis agreed with the prosecution that Finlaw’s original motion for a new trial would be considered and a new motion would not be allowed. Davis ultimately granted Finlaw’s request for more time to finish his arguments for the hearing.
Noll said following the decision, that he was disappointed that the case has been continued once again. “Ultimately the court granted that motion. The state objected to continuing the case. It was the state’s position that the defendant continued the actual trial for over three years. He was ultimately found guilty after a jury trial and was set for sentencing today, and I feel bad for the victim’s family in this case in that the case has been going on for quite a while.”
The hearing for a new trial has been set for one week from today Friday, April 8th at 2:00 pm. Judge Davis admonished Finlaw that he expects him to be fully prepared and ready to present his argument.
Davis said if a date for a sentencing hearing is needed, depending on the outcome of the new trial hearing, that date would be set immediately following the hearing next week.