A 59-year-old man in Oregon has been in jail for more than two years awaiting a murder trial that begins on Tuesday. Which might not be that unusual, except for one thing: "He's not the defendant," observes a headline about the case in the ABA Journal. No, Benito Vasquez-Hernandez, is merely a material witness, and prosecutors fear he won't show up for the trial if they let him go, explains the Oregonian. As a result, Vasquez-Hernandez has been locked up for about 900 days now, which the newspaper says might make him the longest-held witness in the nation. At one point, No. 2 on that list was probably his 28-year-old son Moises, who was held for 727 days before being released last fall with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. His lawyers think prison literally drove him crazy.
Another of Vasquez-Hernandez's sons, Eloy, is accused of murdering a 55-year-old female co-worker. Prosecutors say Eloy told his father and brother about the crime, and they need their testimony at trial. While Moises was eventually able to give a video deposition, Benito lost his chance when he kept asking why he was in jail and insisting on his innocence, and the frustrated judge yelled, "Get him out here," reports the Oregonian. His lawyers say they couldn't get him to fully understand what was happening. "I sincerely regret keeping this man locked up," said a deputy district attorney. "But I don't see any alternative that is fair to these people," he added, referring to the victim's family. "I'm trying to convict a man who has confessed to killing a mother. It's not a real easy job. It's not perfect." (Click to read about another unlikely prisoner—a garbage collector who started work too early.)