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Stephens' murder trial resumes with new lawyer

Suspect could face two life sentences

Posted: February 2, 2009 9:47 p.m.
Updated: February 3, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Judge Barbara Scheper will arraign alleged murderer Michael Dean Stephens in San Fernando Superior Court today.

Scheper continued Stephens' murder trial until Feb. 3 after he switched lawyers Jan. 7. She granted a continuance to allow court-appointed public defender Betsy Mogul, Stephens' attorney, enough time to get up to speed on the case, Scheper said.

"I was retained to handle the pre-trial hearing only. Now I'm handing the case over to a court-appointed attorney," said Richard Hirsch, formerly Stephens' private attorney.

Stephens, 19, allegedly stabbed Joshua Pipho, 20, then ran over him with a car and killed him at a Nov. 24, 2007, house party in Stevenson Ranch.

Pipho's friend, Chad Weitz, 22, came to Pipho's aide during the slaying. Stephens then allegedly ran down Weitz and stabbed him 17 times.

Weitz survived after doctors treated him for a punctured lung and major blood loss.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office charged Stephens with murder and attempted premeditated murder because he had time to think about the alleged assault.

If convicted on both counts, he could face two life sentences, a district attorney spokesperson said.

Pipho's family and close friends are fixtures at San Fernando Superior Court. Pipho's family members wear T-shirts commemorating his life.

Pipho's grandmother, Patricia Wise, said the 2007 murder and the trial are tragic for the Pipho and Stephens families.

"There's nothing worse than a loss. I am grieving for my grandson and (the Stephens) family's loss," Wise said.

The trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. today in Dept. H.


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