The man accused of killing three people – two of whom were fatally shot outside the Mission Valley mall on Christmas Eve – will be back in court sooner than expected.
After originally waiving his right to a speedy preliminary hearing, Carlo Mercado, 29, reasserted that right last Friday, according to his public defender Gary Gibson. His hearing has been rescheduled from Oct. 20 to Sept. 2.
That court appearance will be the point where prosecutors present evidence against Mercado and the judge decides if there's enough against him send him to trial.
Criminal defense attorney Marc Carlos -- who is not involved in the case -- told NBC 7 in serious cases like homicides, it is standard for the defense to waive time restrictions on preliminary hearings.
"It allows you to discuss the facts with your client, to send your investigators out to speak with witnesses so that you're adequately prepared for the prelim," said Carlos.
But he said Mercado's defense team may be switching their strategy if they want to move the hearing up.
Carlos believes the decision to reinstate his right to a speedy preliminary hearing was "a tactical reason on the part of the defense lawyer. He knows something that can benefit his client at this point."
Sometimes, that tactic could force prosecutors to tip their hand and show what forensic or circumstantial evidence they have against Mercado, according to Carlos.
That, or Mercado himself asked that his constitutional right be reinstated.
Regardless, Carlos told NBC 7 the preliminary hearing should have the same result whether it takes place in two weeks or three months from now, and the prosecution will be ready either way.
"This is what they do. This is what everybody does. It's not like you have inexperienced prosecutors or inexperienced investigators that have this case," said Carlos.
During Mercado's preliminary hearing, prosecutors are expected to reveal new, eagerly awaited details about the deaths of Ilona Flint and brothers Salvatore and Gianni Belvedere, as well as why police suspect Mercado killed them.
Flint and Salvatore were found gunned down in the Macy’s Mission Valley parking lot last Christmas Eve. After calling 911, Flint died at the scene, and Salvatore passed away a few days later.
On Jan. 17, 2014, Flint’s fiancé Gianni was discovered dead from a gunshot wound in Riverside, his body lying in the trunk of his car.
Nearly six months passed with no break in the case. Finally, on June 20, police arrested their suspect: Mercado.
Shortly after his incarceration, Mercado was hospitalized for unspecified injuries while in jail.
His former attorney said Mercado denies any involvement in the case and has since pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder. He is being held without bail in the San Diego Central Jail.
The district attorney revealed Mercado could face the death penalty if he is convicted of more than one murder.