Second Biletnikoff Trial Under Way

Thursday, Jun 10, 2010  |  Updated 11:30 AM PDT
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Second Biletnikoff Trial Under Way

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A man accused of murdering the daughter of a Hall of Fame football  player in 1999 made his first appearance in San Mateo County Superior Court  Wednesday in connection with his second trial for the crime. 

Mohammed Haroon Ali, 35, was convicted in San Mateo County  Superior Court in 2001 of the strangulation murder of his girlfriend, Tracey  Biletnikoff, but a federal appeals court last year overturned the conviction,  thus requiring a retrial.     

Biletnikoff, 20, was the daughter of former Oakland Raiders wide  receiver and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Fred Biletnikoff.    

Ali appeared before Superior Court Judge Susan Etezadi at a  hearing that was slated to be for the scheduling of future court dates,  including a possible trial date.     

But Etezadi postponed the proceeding until another hearing on June  18 that will include the setting of future court dates and identification of  Ali's defense attorneys for the retrial, according to Chief Deputy District  Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.  

Wagstaffe, who was elected district attorney on Tuesday and will  assume that post in January, was the prosecutor in Ali's first trial and  plans to continue in that role in the retrial.     

Biletnikoff, who lived with her father in the East Bay, met Ali  through a San Mateo County drug treatment program where they were both  working as counselors after having recovered from drug addictions.     

Her body was found on Feb. 15, 1999, on the campus of Canada  College near Redwood City. Ali was later arrested in San Diego as he drove  Biletnikoff's car across the border from Mexico where he had fled.    

Ali admitted to strangling Biletnikoff during an argument over his  relapse into alcohol and drug use, but argued that the crime should be  considered manslaughter rather than murder on the ground that he allegedly  acted in the heat of passion because he feared the relapse would lead to his  being deported to his native Fiji.     

In his first trial, Ali was sentenced to 55 years in prison for  murder plus another nine for a previous kidnapping conviction for which he  had been on parole.    

His conviction was upheld by state courts but was overturned by  the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco last year on the  ground that prosecutors dismissed at least one and possibly two black  potential jurors from the jury pool for improper racial reasons.
    

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