Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Case Management Hearing for Nicholas Sheley Case- Tentative Trial Dates Set, But Where Will The Trial Be Held?

Today, Tuesday, March 3, at 1:15 p.m., there is a Case Management Hearing at the Knox County Courthouse in Galesburg, IL in the murder case of accused spree killer, Nicholas Sheley. Sheley is charged with killing Ronald Randall,65, of Galesburg last June. If convicted, Sheley will face the death penalty.

For readers not familiar with the Sheley case, he is accused of killing 6 people in Illinois and 2 in Missouri. After the trial here in Knox County, Sheley will head over to Whiteside County, IL to be tried and then down to Festus, MO, near St. Louis for the final trial related to this alleged killing spree. On the right hand side of the page here at katfishponders is a section entitled Labels, if your click on Nicholas Sheley your will see all of the entries related to Sheley in chronological order from most recent down.

I entered the courthouse at about 1:10. Normally I slide straight through the metal detectors, but today I had to stop and get scanned. I got a new watch for Christmas, and that tripped me up. An old friend of mine is working the scanner…he told me, “they are up on second floor.” So I head up the two flights of stairs to the large courtroom. When I reached the courtroom right at 1:15 the only people in there was one bailiff, the clerk and 2 of the victim’s family.

Today’s hearing was originally scheduled as a conference so there may not be too many in attendance. Right after I take a seat behind Ronald Randall’s sisters and say hello, we notice a guy take a seat in the back on the defense side. He is the jail administrator, that means Sheley is in the building. Sheley is brought in through the basement and up the only elevator to the second floor where he is held until court starts.

Knox County is very cautious about security with Sheley, he is always accompanied by a number of Sheriff Department employees. I look over my shoulder and notice the Sheriff, David Clague sitting behind me…stealth… I didn’t see or hear him come in. LOL! Two bailiffs move the long wooden defense table to angle away from the gallery. As I said, they are cautious with Sheley, moving the table makes room for the Deputies guarding Sheley, but also puts a little extra room between him and the gallery.

At about 1:20 several people come in. Two of Ronald Randall’s friends come sit in my row, at about the same time 5 or 6 people sit in the second row on the defense side. One girl is the administrative assistant to the Public Defender and with her is a girl I have previously identified as possibly the sister of Jeremy Karlin, but she might be his assistant. There are a couple of people with them who I don’t recognize, they may be courthouse employees or connected to the defense in some way. There are two accredited press in the courtroom today . Here comes Shirley Pringle, victims rights advocate for Knox County, she sits with the victim’s family in the front row. Following Shirley are the attorneys who go to their respective tables.

At 1:30 Sheley is brought in. He is fully shackled and wearing the jailhouse orange garb. He doesn’t really look around today, just acknowledges his attorneys and sits down. It looks like Sheley has gained a little weight, wonder if it’s that wonderful jailhouse food or just the lack of access to Meth, probably both. He has his hair spiked up. I also notice that he no longer carries the big jumble of paperwork. I suppose now that he has decided to allow the lawyers to do their job, he doesn‘t need it.

Ninth Circuit Court Judge James Stewart enters and court is called to order. Stewart has the parties identify themselves for the record. At the prosecution table is States Attorney, John Pepmeyer and Assistant Attorney General Michael Atterberry. At the defense table is court appointed co-counsel Jeremy Karlin, Public Defender James Harrell and John Hanlon. Today is the first day that I have seen Hanlon enter his appearance with the court, although he was present at the last hearing. He originally was appointed to counsel Sheley regarding his desire to represent himself…hmmm….I guess we will find out why he is still here later.

Judge Stewart says this is a case management hearing. He tells the defense he has a letter from a Donald Kraven in Springfield representing WGIL addressing a return of subpoena issued by the defense. The defense had previously subpoenaed approximately 80 media organizations in preparation for a motion questioning whether Sheley can get a fair trial because of pretrial publicity. Karlin gets up and gets the letter from the judge.

John Pepmeyer tells the court he has some housekeeping, he has received a couple forensic lab reports regarding consumptive DNA testing from the Rockford Forensic Science Laboratory. Pepmeyer states that as far as he knows all DNA testing has been concluded.

Judge Stewart says the only motion before the court today is a defense discovery motion.. Karlin says he has a couple things, he says something about discovery and then says he anticipates filing a motion to change venue within the next 30 days. He also plans to address the constitutionality of the death penalty in IL within the next 30 days. I think it is Karlin who next states hearing dates need to be set for 3 things- briefing schedule. I’m sorry my notes get a little vague here but next I have Atterberry saying no need to brief evidentiary. He continues perhaps a trial date could be set with deadlines for discovery, evidentiary, pretrial hearings and motions.

Judge Stewart asks about the motion to change venue? Karlin says Sheley can’t get a fair trial due to pretrial publicity….and then says the state agrees evidentiary not necessary. Atterberry says the state agrees, but wants to see the motion first.

Pepmeyer suggests the possible trial dates be between May and August 2010 for realistic discussion. This would allow the court to work backwards to schedule hearings and set appropriate deadlines to keep things on schedule. Stewart asks if the defense agrees? Karlin says May does provide some problem for he and Harrell. I didn’t write it down but he makes reference to wives schedules and school…then adds Atterberry has….
Judge repeats do we all agree to order between May and August? Pepmeyer says May and October. Karlin says again…September and October…..Atterberry chimes in he would like to avoid the summer months. His kids play baseball…then says Pepmeyer may agree. Pepmeyer says for him it won’t be an issue for another 2 years. (His child is younger) So the judge once again says, do we agree to May through October? Karlin says he guesses so. Stewart says the deadline for filing pretrial motions will be March 30, 2010.

Katfishponders was a little surprised by this exchange about personal schedules when we are talking about a death penalty case. After speaking with blogging buddies who have much more trial experience, we came to the conclusion this does happen every where but in a small town where the attorneys know each other it is done in a more casual manner. For example in the Phil Spector retrial, last spring Judge Fidler wanted to start the trial in the summer but defense attorney Doran Weinberg wanted to take vacation in August and eventually the trial didn‘t start until fall.

My notes show that Harrell says something here, but I didn’t get what he said, it grabbed my attention though and I notice at some point Harrell and Hanlon had switched spots and Harrell was kind of huddled in with Sheley.

Judge Stewart says something about the change of venue motion and Karlin states they will file that motion in the next couple weeks and the motion addressing the constitutionality of the death penalty in IL in the next 30 days. (For those who aren’t familiar with IL law, there has been a moratorium on the death penalty since 2000.) Stewart says if both motions are filed by Monday, April 6 the state will have 30 days to file authorities (written arguments) by May 6. A hearing is set for May 29 at 9:30 a.m. on the change of venue and constitutionality of death penalty motions.
Stewart then asks the defense if they will have a motion for additional discovery prior to May 29? Atterberry says he believes discovery has all been tendered but needs whittled down. It depends on the information in discovery from defense, and says he will file a motion.

Stewart asks what the state needs to be ready for trial? Atterberry says a list of all experts and depositions of experts. Karlin says for proper litigation case he suggests January 1 2010 for disclosure of experts and depositions within 90 days of that, March 30. I missed something the judge said because next I have Atterberry saying he shares the court’s concern and wants disclosure of experts from defense December 1 and the state can disclose their experts by November 1 and suggests 90 days for depositions from both sides.

Stewart then sets dates for future case management conferences. The dates set were as follows:
May 5 @ 1:30 p.m.
July 7 @ 1:30 p.m.
September 1 @ 1:30 p.m.
September 8 @ 1:30 p.m.
Stewart also says that at the September 1 hearing he would like both sides to submit questionnaires for jury, voir dire questions, and they will discuss jury composition such as how many prospective jurors will be called 300? 500?

Michael Atterberry reminds about the May 29 hearing at 9:30 a.m.

Karlin asks for time to discuss something with their client (Sheley). Judge Stewart says no, we are in the middle of a hearing. He then asks the state did they have an issue with Hanlon’s intervention of hearing and either Pepmeyer or Atterberry said their office is dealing with Hanlon’s on that so not now.
And guess what folks….court is recessed!

A lot of dates were set today but katfishponders can't help but wonder if the change of venue motion is granted are these all moot? just a thought. Sphere: Related Content

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