Monday, September 29, 2008

Knox County Judge Grants Continuance In Sheley Case

Today (Friday September, 26) on my way to the Knox County courthouse in Galesburg, Illinois I noticed that even though it feels like a warm summer day you can see the changes of Autumn starting to take place. IMO there is no place more beautiful during the Fall than the Midwest. Driving the short distance (4miles) from my house to Galesburg there are fields of corn standing tall ready to be harvested and soy bean crops that look like a carpet of lemon-colored coins rolling across the land. Yes folks, this is serious "amber waves of grain" stuff. I'll admit it, I feel a little patriotic about now. LOL

This is my second trip this week to a hearing for Nicholas T. Sheley, a 29 year old Sterling, Il man accused in the deaths of eight people in a two-state killing spree in late June.

photo of Ronald Randall

In Galesburg, he is charged in the death of Ronald Randall, age 65 of Galesburg. It is alleged that Sheley kidnapped Randall from a car wash, robbed him, bludgeoned him to death and dumped his body behind a grocery-store near a dumpster before stealing his 2007 Chevy pick-up.

There are 7 more victims whose story will be told in a court of law and this blog later on, but for now I want to focus on this case. Sometimes it seems as if victims get lost in the legal shuffle.

I can tell you that "shots of light" of who Ronald Randall was are already starting to "shine" through. His family is in court every hearing and they are usually the first ones there. You can tell he was a good brother and Dad and they are in court for him.

After today's hearing WQAD reporter Chris Minor interviewed 2 men who said they were long time friends of Ronald. They had all worked at the Maytag factory in Galesburg for many years. The men said that Randall had worked well over 30 years at Maytag and had worked until the last day the plant operated (factory moved to Mexico #%*#). You could really sense the pride and love that they felt for Ronald as they spoke.

One last patriotic word before I go into the details of the hearing. As Americans we all have the same constitutional right to a fair trial. Whether he deserves it or not (depends who you ask) Nicholas Sheley will have a fair trial. At hearings on September 11, 19 and 24 and in recent interviews Sheley has requested a speedy trial and expressed his unhappiness with his defense counsel. The judge has heard him loud and clear but until Sheley has been proven fit to stand trial and wave his right to counsel, he will just have to wait like the rest of us. Part of this
hearing today is to determine which side will be charged with the delay.

The hearing today is supposed to start at 10 a.m.. I arrive at the courthouse about 9:30. The Sheriff's deputy at the door is a guy I have known for a long time. We say our good mornings and I head straight up to the courtroom. If court starts early and you're late, too bad, you don't get in.

When I come in the courtroom, as usual, Ronald Randall's family is seated in the front row and are the first ones here. I take my usual seat in the second row behind them. We say our good mornings and shortly after people file into the courtroom.

The first two rows on the defense side is reserved for the press. At the last couple hearings there has only been a few press attending, but today I think they will fill their rows. The back row looks like some off-duty court employees. Two older men come in and sit in my row. I have seen these guys at another hearing. (These are the friends of Ronald's who I mentioned earlier.) It's pretty close to 10 a.m. and Sheriff David Clague is here (that means Sheley is in the building).

The prosecution and defense are in and out but it is 10:40 before Sheley is brought into the courtroom. As usual, he is fully shackled and in jailhouse orange, but today it looks like he has a fresh haircut. Sheley takes a good look around the courtroom but doesn't acknowledge anyone before he sits down. Public Defender James Harrell leans in to say something to Sheley and Sheley starts scooting his chair around. Sheley had a little smile on his face so I don't know what to make of this especially when shortly after the gaurds took Sheley back out of the courtroom. I read a local news report that Sheley asked to be returned to the holding cell. Perhaps that smile was an attempt to control his temper?

At 10:45 Ninth Circuit Judge James Stewart takes the bench and calls a sidebar right off. Sheley is brought back in and the hearing gets under way. Judge Stewart says there were several issues to be dealt with today. First is the question of fitness. Stewart asked the defense and the state to work together to choose an expert who will conduct Sheley's fitness hearing. If the parties can't come to an agreement by Wednesday, the court will appoint an expert. Once the expert is decided, she or he will have 30 days to conduct the hearing. This delay will not be charged to either side.
The next issue is defense motions. Jeremy Karlin entered a motion for the defense to extend discovery. Karlin also requested a conference ex-parte with the judge per Supreme Court rule and he mentioned something about case law. I missed a little of what he said because I was focusing on Sheley. I wanted to see if I could gauge his response to the latest defense motions....I guess his leaving the courtroom earlier says it all. Sheley objects to the motions and the court acknowledges that but says until the fitness hearing is complete the record is bound by the defense counsel.

Assistant Attorney General Michael Atterberry asked that the record reflect the defense requested the extension.

The last issue is DNA testing. Karlin told the court the prosecution and defense agree that the experts for both sides will work between themselves to schedule the work that needs to be done. Atterberry said the state was notified that an additional piece of evidence may be consumed by DNA testing and will submit a supplemented order to include that evidence.

States Attorney John Pepmeyer says the next formal hearing will be October 31. Atterberry asks the judge if they should set a hearing date for the DNA and the Judge Stewart says to just wait and they will come up with a date when the testing is done.

Judge Stewart tells the court the rest of the hearing will be ex parte. He goes on to explain that although most court dealings are best kept open and transparent the Supreme Court has authorized these ex parte conferences to be conducted out of the presence of the public and the prosecution because the defense may present theories of defense. With that everyone from the press, the public and the state were asked to leave.

I sat outside of the courtroom with some of the press for a couple minutes (just in case something came up) until a deputy asked us to move to a hallway away from the courtroom. While standing in the hall (holding up the wall) one of the reporters said he wanted to stay and see if any of the case law that was mentioned was expounded upon, perhaps in relation to some new evidence? I would have liked to stay longer but had to be somewhere. I will try and attend any future hearings and keep you posted.

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1 comment:

  1. I think us four girls need to make a trip to MT. It would be nice if our hubbies would come alot, too!!