Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween In Court - No Tricks, No Treats

Friday ( October 31), I attended another case management conference in the case of accused spree killer Nicholas Sheley in Galesburg, IL. Sheley is facing 17 charges in the death of Ronald Randall, 65 of Galesburg. If convicted and aggravating factors are found, Sheley will face the death penalty. After Knox County is done with Sheley, he moves onto Whiteside County to face charges in the death of 5 more people there, and then....down to Missouri to face charges in 2 more deaths.

I'm not much of a "morning person"anyway, but this morning I had to push harder than usual to get myself going. I haven't slept well since I began researching the events leading up to, and a timeline of, the killing spree that took place in June. It is unsettling to go through this sequence of events and exhausting because I have tried to include info that I find from more than 1 source. I don't want to sound as though I'm complaining about the task, at all, it's just my focus has been mostly on the court proceedings in Ronald Randall's case. It's mind boggling how many lives are forever changed or ended and how harsh life can be. I will get back to work on the timeline after I finish this court entry:

When I enter the Knox County courthouse it's about 9:30, the hearing is scheduled to start at 10 am. As I make my way through security I say hello to a friend who is a bailiff and make my way up the wide staircase leading to the second floor. Oh oh, I see some of Ronald Randall's family sitting in some chairs across from the stairwell. That definitely means the courtroom isn't open yet, hope it doesn't mean the hearing is changed. (Halloween is a big deal in katfish land....I have things to get done....before the spooks come.)

After saying hello to Ronald's family, I go to the other end of the hall and peek in the blinds of the courtroom. The court reporter is setting up her stuff but the lights aren't on, so I wait. Sheriff David Clague comes around the staircase and heads up to the third floor. The States Attorney's offices are up there, probably giving them a heads up. When the Sheriff is here, it usually means that Sheley is in the building. As he climbs the stairs I see the lights are on in the courtroom and the court reporter steps out. I ask if it's OK to go in and she says sure.

I let Ronald's family know the courtroom was open and we head in. They sit in the front row and I sit on the aisle in the second row. It doesn't take long and people start coming in. Friends of Ronald go around behind me and sit at the other end of the second row. The Administrative Assistant for the Public Defender, James Harrell comes in with two men in suits, and they sit right behind me. She is wearing jeans and a thermal shirt that says" scary " in spooky lettering. I assume the guys are lawyers because one said he was going to go dressed tonight as an attorney drinking beer. I couldn't resist, I asked him, and how much of a stretch is that? He said tonight?...not much. LOL

Defense Attorney, Jeremy Karlin comes in with his laptop and gets it set up on the defense table. James Harrell sticks his head in the door and motions for Karlin to come in the hall. When they came back in, they go into the "witness" room. I see that the attorneys for the state are in there and two more unfamiliar"suits". I wonder if one of the "suits" is a DNA expert or Dr. Killian, a forensic Psychiatrist appointed by the court to evaluate Sheley's fitness? One of the "suits" is a representative of the Illinois Attorney Generals office, I have seen him in court before but I don't think his appearance has been entered with the court. It didn't take long to find out about the other guy.

Ninth Circuit Judge James Stewart enters the courtroom a little past 10 and calls court to order and acknowledges James Harrell and Jeremy Karlin as attorneys of record for Nicholas Sheley( at least until Sheley's fitness is determined). There are 4 attorneys sitting at the table for the state. First, Knox County State's Attorney John Pepmeyer, to his right Assistant Attorney General Micheal Atterberry, then the 2 gentlemen I mentioned before. It turns out they are both representatives of the Illinois Attorney Generals office as well. One of them even spelled his name twice but I didn't get it or what role they will play in this case.

Judge Stewart instructs a bailiff to have Sheley brought in.
When Sheley is brought in he appears kind of disheveled. His orange jailhouse garb is kind of wrinkled and his shirttail is hanging out. What makes that more noticeable is the white T shirt that hangs about 8-10 inches lower than the over shirt. He has a big jumble of expansion folders and stuffed envelopes in his hands. Being fully shackled he has a little trouble getting himself and the papers settled at the table....someone ( I think Harrell) helps him get sat down with the papers. He takes a good look around the courtroom and then turns to face the court.

Back to Sheley's appearance. It's kind of unusual for him to look disheveled. At the rate his hairstyles change one might even think he's a little pre-occupied with his appearance. On the other hand what else does he have to do? Today his hair is longer and slicked back like a greaser from the sixties. Not that any of this has any bearing on this case....just an observation.

Judge Stewart says that this is a case management conference. He asks the state where they are at on disclosure in accordance with Supreme Court rules.
John Pepmeyer responds the state will continue to provide supplemental discovery as they get it. There are some lab results that are expected within 14 days.
Stewart then turns to the defense. Karlin tells the court that additional requests for discovery have been made.

Judge Stewart asks the defense more specifically about complying with full disclosure and Karlin replies it will take more time. Stewart asks for a time estimate and Karlin cannot give a specific time. ( Local media reports that Sheley's defense has subpoenaed approximately 80 media organizations requesting copies of stories related to coverage of Sheley.)

The Judge then asks the State about submitting aggravating factors in relation to Supreme Court rules on Capital Litigation. John Pepmeyer responds that the State included all of the aggravating factors they intend to seek with their intent to seek the death penalty.

The Judge mentions something about disclosures again. Michael Atterberry reiterates the state is waiting compliance from the lab. There are 3 different labs evaluating evidence but they expect to comply with disclosure with in 14 days.

Things are moving quickly this morning and or I'm just slow (lol). My notes don't say who, but someone mentions there are consumptive DNA tests that aren't done yet.
( Both parties agreed in court on September 26 that the experts would work between themselves to schedule the testing. I had hoped we would hear today that they were done! )
Karlin says something about the expert they hired being a professional and has a schedule to work around. I didn't hear anyone complain about the expert but someone must have said something. Jeesh, not only am I slow today my ears are plugged too! Sorry folks.

Pepmeyer requests that the consumptive testing be done within 30 days.
Stewart says the deadline for the DNA testing will be 60 days.
Karlin then adds the state added additional consumptive tests on Sept. 26.
Atterberry responds they still expect the DNA to be done in 60 days.

Atterberry continues that the state wants to make a record of the information provided to Dr. Killian, to be used in his fitness evaluation of Sheley. They would also ask for a record of correspondence to Dr. Killian, including a record of telephonic and e-mail correspondence and a record of all discovery provided to Dr. Killian.

(An order from Judge Stewart appointing Dr. Killian required a written determination of Sheley's fitness be entered with the court by November 2 ; however, in a closed hearing on Oct. 17, attorneys for both sides agreed to change the wording of the order. The revised order wasn't delivered to Killian until Oct.29. In the revised fitness order, Killian is instructed to include an opinion as to whether Sheley has any mental or physical disability or defect that would impair his ability to think coherently, objectively and without delusions and has the ability to understand courtroom developments.)

Judge Stewart says there is a return of subpoena hearing on November 19. He wants to schedule a case management hearing for December 31, at 10 am.

Karlin says he will call Dr. Killian right after the hearing and kind of motions with his Blackberry type handheld, but then adds, if the call must be recorded it will be more difficult to communicate.

Atterberry says no, when he requested a record of telephonic correspondence he meant a log of calls, not a recording. Karlin asks Stewart if the expected procedure can be put on record.

Judge Stewart says everyone is trying to make a record, but the doctor must comply with the 30 day order. If more time is needed, the doctor needs to come to court and tell why.

Pepmeyer asks if the doctor has a copy of the order. Karlin says the doctor was sent a scanned copy of the order a few days ago, Oct.29.

Atterberry mentions there is additional discovery regarding the incident at the jail this past week, Dr. Killian should be advised of this as well. {{{{WTH ?}}}} (This is the first I have heard of another incident at the jail. Sheley had an altercation in July with another inmate and it was reported. Why is this one a secret?)

Susan Kaufman, of The Register-Mail in Galesburg, reported Sheriff Clague would not say when the incident occurred or provide any details due to the court imposed gag order.

Sheley begins conferring with James Harrell. He isn't loud, but loud enough those who are speaking are hard to hear. I feel for the court reporter today. Harrell puts his finger over the mic in front of them, but you can still hear the rumble of his voice.

Evidently Sheley wants his attorneys to address something in court for the record. (Sheley isn't allowed to address the court until his fitness is determined.) Karlin complies and tells the court that although it was the "cart before the horse here" in regards to the fitness issue, can the defendant request a jury trial. Karlin also mentions Indiana vs. Edwards- a Supreme Court case that requires a higher standard for measuring a dependants competency to be his own lawyer than to stand trial.

Karlin then asks if a different judge will hear the fitness hearing. He thinks the judge said he would do that at an earlier hearing.

Judge Stewart says he doesn't remember saying that, it would not be normal procedure to do so. He asks the court reporter if she can gather the transcripts for review, I think for the r.o.s. hearing on Nov. 19.? I have to restrain myself from,no,no...on Sept.19, he said he would have the chief judge appoint another judge for an adequacy of counsel hearing...not fitness. Yes, Pepmeyer just backed me up! They still have to check the transcript.

With that Stewart says his order will show the state has complied with disclosure per Supreme Court rule with the exception of labs. Defense unable to confirm disclosures or a date. All consumptive labs due within 60 days. Defense will supply the court with documentation of all communication with Dr. Killian. Court is recessed at 10:35 AM.

Sorry it took so long to post this....when I turned off the porch light on Halloween and headed down to my computer to post this entry, I stepped wrong and messed up my knee. Spent the rest of the weekend with my leg up. I had a Dr. appointment for today with my family doctor, she thinks I may have torn a ligament, but recommends an MRI. I'm not anxious to throw my money at an MRI just yet so I'm going to see an orthopedic. grrrr....
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  1. is there anyway you can tell us when his next court date is and if you will be writing about that court apperence as well. thank you

  2. Yes,
    First off here is the main address for my blog:

    Put this address in your browser (if clicking on it doesn't just take you there).This will always put you on my most recent entry. If you are just now finding my blog you will have a lot of reading to do.I cover other cases besides Sheley, but his entries are different because I am attending his hearing and give my report from an "in the courtroom" perspective.
    On the right hand side of my blog main page is an archive that you can look up older entries by date or right below that is a section called labels....if you click on Nicholas Sheley label it should take you to all entries about him.
    March 3 there will be a conference between the lawyers and judge to set a schedule. Hopefully we will start this first trial soon. I always post when I know a hearing is coming up. If you have any questions you can e-mail me through my blogger profile. Hope this helps!

  3. actually you can find the archive section, labels and my profile right on this page but the address I gave you will take you to the front page of my blog. 8-)