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Tonya Papanikolas reportingMark Hacking is expected in court today for a pretrial hearing that may end in a plea agreement. His trial is scheduled to start Monday, but legal experts say there may not be a trial.
Greg Skordas, Defense attorney: "If there's not going to be a plea [Friday], the trial will certainly be postponed because no one is prepared to go to trial in this case, in my judgement."
Hacking's trial is scheduled to start Monday, but a hearing Friday is when this potential plea deal is expected to be presented.
Greg Skordas, Defense Attorney: "Given the fact that neither side has filed any motions, that there doesn't seem to be any jury questionnaire submitted yet, there doesn't seem to be any witness lists submitted by either side yet. It appears that both sides must have come to that agreement, and they must have come to that some time ago."
28-year-old Hacking is charged with first-degree felony murder for allegedly shooting his sleeping wife, 27-year-old Lori Hacking, last July. Lori's body was found in October at the Salt Lake County landfill. A mattress was discovered in a trash bin near the Hackings' apartment. The rifle has NOT been located.
He's also charged with three additional second-degree felony counts of obstructing justice for disposing of the body, a mattress and the murder weapon.
Last Fall, Mark Hacking's case was scheduled for April 18th. Months went by and lawyers didn't file any motions. February 4th, another murder case was scheduled for the same day, same time, under the same judge. It's very possible at that time, both sides in the Hacking case knew a plea agreement was forthcoming.
Greg Skordas: "It's unusual that you'd schedule murder cases at the same time, unless you had a pretty good notion that one or both of them are going to settle."
The other scheduled murder case has two full files, showing motions to admit testimony, proposed jury instructions, and a detailed list of defense and state witnesses, including expert witnesses like the Deputy Chief Medical Examiner.... a person you'd think would be important to the state in the Hacking case.
Greg Skordas: "It would be hard to try this case without expert witnesses from either side."
Greg Skordas: "I would submit that there's not going to be a jury on Monday."
If a plea deal is presented today and both sides knew it was coming, some wonder why it may have taken so long to reach. One possible answer, defense attorney Gil Athay may have been waiting for the state to offer him a good deal. Whether he got that deal or not remains to be seen.
Though not confirmed, the speculation is Hacking will plead guilty to murder and the state will drop the three obstruction of justice charges against him. With the deal, he could still get life in prison. The minimum sentence is five to 10 years.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story)