Thursday, May 14, 2009

Terminally ill witness to testify early in Sheley Case

Here is an article as it appeared in the Galesburg Resister mail and a televised report that appeared on WQAD in the Quad Cities. The Quad Cities are located between Sterling, IL and Galesburg, IL where 6 of the 8 alleged victims of Sheley were killed. The other 2 victims were in Festus, MO, near St. Louis.

The testimony of this terminally ill witness is another twist in this very twisted case.

Katfishponders would like to salute this witness for contacting the state to make arrangements for her testimony at a very difficult time in her life. You are a hero in the eyes of many for taking time in this difficult period of your life to fullfill your civic duty and provide your testimony
in a particularly horrific case. Thank You and God Bless You!

Here is the report in the Galesburg Register Mail:

The Register-Mail


GALESBURG — .A woman who says she saw Nicholas Sheley in Galesburg on June 28, 2008, will have her testimony recorded this week after the prosecution learned she has only weeks to live.

Sheley is suspected of kidnapping 65-year-old Ronald Randall, hijacking his truck, stealing his wallet and killing him June 28, 2008, in Galesburg. Sheley is being held on $10 million bond and faces the death penalty if convicted.

An emergency motion hearing was conducted in Knox County Circuit Court on Monday to depose the woman who has terminal cancer in the case against Nicholas Sheley. Ninth Circuit Judge James Stewart ordered the state’s written motion sealed to protect the woman’s identity and privacy.

Bill Elward of the Illinois Attorney General’s office told the court the woman is a “brief occurrence witness” whose testimony to the police encompassed about five to 10 pages in a written report but her video-taped testimony will be about 10 to 15 minutes in length. Elward said the woman will not be able to testify at the trial scheduled for summer or fall of 2010. “She will be available this week. It is a most urgent matter. This is a witness who is dying,” Elward told the court.

The woman’s testimony will be conducted at the Knox County jail library Wednesday.

Stipulations were made about the clothes Sheley will wear and the video camera which will remain focused on the witness unless there is a question about her identifying Sheley or a disturbance during her deposition.

Sheley also is accused of killing seven other people in two states.

This is the televised report from WQAD:

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Appeal Pending for Mark Jensen In Murder Conviction-UPDATED 5/14

update 5/14-
There has been a little more activity in the Jensen appeal. I am just bumping this post up and will include the activity here:

5/4- Decision made for no action on Delinquincy Motion submitted 4/30.

5/13- Court received Record due 5/18. Case Maintenance- now in briefing

5/14- Attorney change for state, Gregory M. Weber- off,
Marguerite M.Moeller-on, Robert D. Zapf remains.

6/22- Brief and Appx of Appellant due date.

original entry-4/30
Mark Jensen is a Kenosha WI. man who sits in jail, facing life in prison with no chance for parole. Jensen, 48 was found guilty on February 21, 2008 for the 1998 poisoning death of his wife Julie Jensen, 40. Prosecutors alleged that Jensen was having an affair and poisoned his wife so he could be free of her. The defense says Julie Jensen was despondent about the affair, killed herself and tried to frame her husband. Jensen's case has come to be known as The Case of the Letter from the Grave .

A few weeks before her death, Julie Jensen had given a neighbor a letter pointing an accusing finger at her husband should anything happen to her. She also made foreboding comments to police and to her son's teacher, saying she suspected that her husband was trying to kill her. The letter, read aloud in court, said in part: "I pray I'm wrong + nothing happens ... but I am suspicious of Mark's suspicious behaviors + fear for my early demise," the letter says. " Click here to read the letter.

After years of legal wrangling, the admission of this letter was made possible when the Wisconsin Supreme Court (WSC) ruled such previously inadmissible testimony could be used if a judge determined the defendants' actions prevented the witnesses from testifying. The WSC based its decision on the "doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing." Essentially, it said that Mark Jensen forfeited his Constitutional right to face his accuser, because his alleged actions (murdering his wife) made it impossible for her to appear in court. Judge Schroeder decided it was reasonable to believe that Mark Jensen's actions prevented his wife from testifying.

Below the current appeal information (enclosed by red astericks) is more information about the basis for this appeal.

A motion for appeal of Mark Jensen's murder conviction has been entered with the Wisconsin Court of Appeal on April 6. The motion is pending submission of the Statement on Transcript and the Record. Click on these links to read the actual Case Details and the Appeal History on this case at the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Access website.

I will provide a short summary here and a few definitions that this blogger had to look up. ( I have no legal training, just an immense interest. )

Summary of current activity:

The Statement on Transcript (SRT) was due on April 20, 2009.
A Delinquency Motion was submitted on April 30, 2009 by the Unassigned District 2 for the SRT that was due on April 20, 2009.

A motion was Filed/ Granted to extend the submission of NAP/PCM to May 9, 2009.

The anticipated due date for the Record is May 18, 2009.


All the papers filed with the circuit court including the decision of the circuit court judge. The record is sent to the Court of Appeals after an appeal has been initiated.

Statement on Transcript (SRT)-
A statement filed by an appellant or cross appellant notifying the court of the transcripts ordered for the appeal.

I could not find definitions for NAP/PCM. Here is a link to a glossary at the WSCCA site for more definitions. The glossary is towards the bottom of the page.


In June of 2008 there was a Supreme Court ruling, Giles vs. California, that may enable Mark Jensen to have his conviction thrown out.

This ruling does not guarantee Mark Jensen’s freedom, or even a new trial. The judge in his case ruled that Julie’s letter and statements were a Dying Declaration, evidence of her state of mind at the time of her death. The state appeals court is reviewing that. If they rule the statements were a Dying Declaration, the Supreme Court decision will not apply and Mark will remain in prison. Otherwise, he might become a free man.

Memorandum of Dying Declaration- this memorandum written by Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder to further explain his decision to admit Julie Jensen's letter as her Dying Declaration.

Katfishponders has done several entries on Mark Jensens case, you can find them here .
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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Grand Jury Indicts Nicholas Sheley In Jailhouse Incident And Coverage of Last Week's Case Management Hearing

Nicholas Sheley, an accused spree killer, has been held in the Knox County Jail in Galesburg, IL awaiting trial, since last July. He is facing a 17 count indictment in connection with the death of Ronald Randall. He is just one of the eight people Sheley is accused of bludgeoning to death during the 2008 two-state killing spree. Sheley has been held on a $10 million bond. I attended a case management hearing last week in the murder case and will report on that later in this entry.

Katfishponders reported earlier, that Sheley was involved in an incident at the Knox County Jail on April 17, that resulted in five new charges being filed. The three counts of aggravated battery and one count of criminal damage to property allege Sheley broke apart a metal chair and threw the legs at peace and correctional officers causing them injury. Sheley also is accused of punching a correctional officer resulting in the aggravated assault charge. Bond for the new charges was set at $250,000.

Knox County State’s Attorney John Pepmeyer and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced Tuesday, May 12, that a grand jury indicted Nicholas Sheley on three counts of aggravated battery, one count of criminal damage to property and one count of aggravated assault. The indictment supersedes the charges previously filed against Sheley on April 23, 2009.

The next hearing scheduled for these charges is May 15 before Associate Judge Dwayne Morrison. The judge is expected to rule whether he will allow Sheley's motion to represent himself on these charges. If found guilty of the assaults Sheley could serve up to 14 years.

Sorry to take so long to report on the case management hearing that took place on May 5 in the murder case. The hearing itself only took fifteen minutes but I have been quite is a summary of the hearing:

When I pull up to the courthouse it's already 1:23 and there are no parking spaces open in front. I find a spot on a side street but had to parallel park.....grrr....I can't be late, they won't let you in once Sheley is in the courtroom. Whew, I got parked on the third try. Did I say I hate parallel parking? Anyway, the hearing is supposed to start at 1:30 so I rush up to the courthouse doors.

Luckily there is no one in front of me going through security. The courtroom for this hearing(pictured above) is on the second floor so I head up the stairs as fast as I can. When I reach the courtroom doors a Sheriff's deputy stops me and asks who I am and why I'm here ( lol, where has he been the last 10 months) I give my name and tell him I'm blogging this trial so he waves me in.

As I enter the courtroom it's just about 1:30. There's no sign of Sheley but Sheriff David Clague is seated so Sheley is in the building. Three members of the victim, Ronald Randall's family are here and seated in the front row on the prosecution side, we smile and wave. Shirley Pringle, the Knox County victims rights advocate, is sitting with them. She attends almost every hearing and is a great asset to the court system here in Knox County. There is a woman that I haven't seen before sitting behind them and they are talking.

I sit in the second row on the defense side (closest to the doors) behind the accredited press seats. There are 3 reporters here today. Susan Kaufman from the Register- Mail is always friendly so I take the seat behind her. She and I visit a bit and two women and a man come in and sit behind me. They are affiliated with the defense counsel in someway.

At 1:35 the attorneys for the state come into the courtroom and take their seats. States Attorney John Pepmeyer and two attorneys from the Illinois Attorney General's office, Bill Elward and Steve Plazibat, are here today. At 1:40 Public Defender James Harrell, court appointed co-counsel Jeremy Karlin and John Hanlon enter and take their seats at the defense table.

Next Nicholas Sheley is brought into the courtroom by a group of deputies. As usual, he is fully shackled, dressed in the orange jailhouse garb with white socks and orange sandals. I just saw him yesterday at the hearing for the charges related to the jailhouse incident but I notice two changes right away, he is wearing glasses (must be readers) and his head was bald yesterday but already is showing growth today. He takes his seat without looking around.

Ninth Circuit Judge James Stewart enters and the hearing begins. Stewart brings up a defense motion for discovery. Karlin says they will have their defense motion for discovery at the next hearing on May 29 and then will set dates for defense disclosures.

Pepmeyer asks that the record reflect the people's disclosure to defense. The disclosure is a final list of the state's discovery and witnesses. He gets up and hands a copy to the clerk and a copy to the defense. Elward stands and says the hearing on May 29 is the state's deadline for discovery. Judge Stewart comments that neither side is ready to provide a certificate of compliance.

Elward informed the court all statutory aggravating factors have been disclosed up until a jailhouse incident involving Sheley on April 17, adding the evidentiary phase aggravating factors relating to the incident will be submitted by May 29.

Judge Stewart asks the state if all DNA testing is completed. All three at the prosecution table confer and Elward rises and says the disclosure filed today has most of the 417 but the remainder of the testing should be completed by May 29. Stewart asks if there will be any other testing and the state says no.

Karlin stands and says something about the depositions of the state's experts. Stewart asks if the defense has provided access to their experts. Karlin says not until all of the discovery is disclosed.Judge Stewart wants to set a time frame for deposing the experts and says he would like written interrogatories of the experts opinions by May 29 or soon after, not their final decisions but wants to avoid duplications and the interrogatories would help with that.

Plazibat says tomorrow is the date for filing responses to motions but they are not filing the change of venue response by May 29 because of other issues. Karlin responds the state said they had no objection to delaying the arguments for the change of venue motion. Karlin says polling of other counties that could possibly host the trial instead of Knox County hasn't been completed. Guidance for polling questions hasn't been completed.

The defense entered the change of venue motion in March, claiming Sheley could not get a fair trial in Knox County because of extensive pre-trial publicity.

The constitutionality of the death penalty, a possible punishment if Sheley is convicted of killing Ronald Randall, will be argued May 29.

Stewart states that an order will be submitted memorializing what has been done. At the May 29 hearing he will schedule another case management hearing. Right now we are just advancing the case. And court was dismissed.

The trial is tentatively set for Summer 2010. The 17 charges against Sheley, in connection to Randall's death, include 10 counts of first degree murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated vehicular hijacking, one count of armed robbery, one count of robbery and one count of possession of a stolen vehicle.

Sheley also faces 15 counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of four people in Rock Falls, IL and is charged in the deaths of a 93-year-old Sterling, IL man and an Arkansas couple killed in Missouri. Those trials will follow this trial. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, May 11, 2009

Stacey Barker Pleads Not Guilty to Charge of Murdering Her Daughter Emma And Not Guilty To Allegations Of Special Circumstances

Click here to light a candle for EMMA!

Stacey Barker in court
Stacey Barker pleaded Not Guilty today to murder in the death of her 18-month-old daughter, Emma, whom she initially claimed was taken from her in a violent kidnapping. Along with murder, Stacey Marie Barker is accused of one count each of assault on a child causing death and child abuse. Through her lawyer Barker also pled Not Guilty to the allegations of Special Circumstances.

Deputies allege the 24-year-old woman initially lied to investigators about the circumstances of her toddler's death. She told sheriff's deputies that someone knocked her out as she was putting her daughter into a car seat in Lancaster on the evening of March 19, and that she awoke hours later at a park-and-ride lot in Palmdale.

Barker allegedly inflicted wounds to her head, partially undressed and faked semi-consciousness in an attempt to mislead deputies.Under questioning, she later told deputies that her daughter, Emma Leigh, died in an unspecified accident and said she panicked and dumped the body, according to the sheriff's department.

Investigators recovered the toddler's body in a yard in the 13000 block of El Dorado Avenue in Sylmar, CA. Coroner's officials have not yet issued a final report on how the girl died but sheriff's detectives suspect she was suffocated, a Sheriff's Department spokesman said Monday. "Detectives believe that based on interviews and the condition of the victim that she likely suffocated," Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

The maximum penalty Barker faces is 25 years to life in prison, Deputy District Attorney Kelly Cromer said. Sheriff's officials never disclosed what sort of accident Barker said killed her daughter. She is due back at the Antelope Valley Courthouse in Lancaster, CA on June 15, when a date is scheduled to be set for a preliminary hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to require her to stand trial.

Barker is being housed in the Century Regional Detention Facility in the city of Lynwood on
$1 million bail.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sheley Hearing on Jailhouse Assault Charges, Ruling Delayed on Sheley's Request To Represent Himself

Sheley at 2008 hearing
I'm sorry it has taken so long to get this entry up, I have been doing a lot of yard work including some heavy duty digging and totally zonked out after the hearing. LOL, I almost missed Tuesday's case management hearing on the murder charges as well, but I made it. I'll report on that hearing after I get this entry done.
Monday May 4 was another hearing for Nicholas Sheley at the Knox County Courthouse in Galesburg, IL for charges related to a recent incident at the Knox County Jail.

Sheley, an accused spree killer, has been held in the Knox County Jail awaiting trial, since last July, on a $10 million bond. He is facing 17 counts, 10 of those first-degree murder, in connection with the death of Ronald Randall, just one of the eight people he is accused of bludgeoning to death during the 2008 two-state killing spree. If convicted in the murder case, Sheley will face the death penalty.

Sheley is accused of attacking several deputies at the Knox County Jail on April 17 , allegedly punching deputies and throwing metal legs of a chair when asked to return to his cell from a maximum security day area. Three counts of Aggravated Battery to a correctional officer, one count of Aggravated Assault and Criminal Damage to Property were filed against Sheley after the incident.

At a custody hearing, on April 23, in Knox County Circuit Court, Judge Dwayne Morrison set an additional bond of $250,000 for the five new charges against Sheley. Morrison also appointed public defender Jim Harrell to represent Sheley on the charges. Harrell already is co-counsel with Jeremy Karlin in Sheley’s murder proceedings. At the end of this hearing and at a hearing on April 27, Sheley told Judge Dwayne Morrison that he wants to represent himself on the five new charges. Morrison warned Sheley that representing himself in this case was not in Sheley’s best interest, but did not make a ruling.

I arrived at the courthouse just a few minutes before three. I went straight through security and the bailiff's at the entry pointed me towards the downstairs courtroom and told me to hurry before they brought Sheley in.

This courtroom is much smaller than the upstairs courtroom it's a rectangle shaped room with the judge's bench at the front of the room. There are 4 or 5 rows on each side of the room with a aisle in the middle leading up to the bench. Each row has 4 oak (?) slat back chairs. When I come into the courtroom the only people here are 3 of Ronald Randall's family seated on the right hand side of the room and a couple men on the left hand side who I don't recognise. There are two members of the accredited press here. The bailiffs have hung signs on the back of three chairs in the front row on the right side that say reserved for press. It doesn't look like there will be many here for this hearing.

Within moments Sheley is brought in through a side door at the front of the courtroom next to the bench. He is fully shackled and wearing his orange jailhouse garb. His head is shaved to the skin today. Seven Sheriff's personnel surround him as he is seated at a long table in front of the Judge's bench right next to Public defender James Harrell.
Next, States Attorney John Pepmeyer enters from the back of the courtroom and heads down the aisle where he sits at the long table next to James Harrell. Shirley Pringle, the Knox County Victim's Rights Advocate, comes in behind Pepmeyer and sits next to Ronald Randall's family. Then Sheriff David Clague and two more security personnel sit behind me and the Bailiff closes the doors and the hearing starts.

Knox County Circuit Court Judge Dwayne Morrison tells Nicholas Sheley this court doesn't operate in a vacuum and he is aware of the other charges that Sheley is facing. He continues that today he will review the charges Sheley is facing in his court and the possible penalties on these charges if he is convicted. Morrison also says he will review Sheley's motion to represent himself on these charges and goes on to inform Sheley that James Harrell has filed a motion regarding Sheley's wish to defend himself.

Morrison starts off reading the five count criminal complaint filed in connection to the incident at the Knox County jail on April 17, 2009.

Three counts of Aggravated Battery for allegedly hitting with fists or throwing legs off a chair.
Aggravated Battery is a class 2 felony punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison, mandated supervised release of 2 years and a $25,000 fine.
One count Aggravated Assault attempted to hit Michael Johnson.
Aggravated Assault is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in County jail and a $2500 fine.
Criminal Damage to property for damaging chair valued no greater than $500.
Class 4 felony punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison.

Morrison then informs Sheley that because these alleged crimes were committed while being held in a pretrial phase on other charges the sentences would be consecutive, whichever charges he is convicted of first would be served consecutive to the other offenses.

I'm a little confused on this next part but I understand the judge to say if convicted of all or more than one of these 5 charges the penalty would not exceed the maximum of the 2 most serious which would be 14 years.

Morrison then moves on to Sheley's motion to act as his own lawyer. He tells Sheley it is his right to remain silent but he does have some questions he would like to ask of Sheley about representing himself . Sheley agrees and here is the just of that conversation :
Judge Morrison = JM Nicholas Sheley = NS

JM- What level of education do you have?
JM- Have you ever represented yourself?
NS- no

JM- Do you have training in the legal system?
NS- not other than going through it dozens of times.

At this point the judge informs Sheley of some of the disadvantages to a defendant representing himself. JM tells NS that defending yourself is not just talking and telling your story, there are also technical matters.
When representing yourself you won't have experience which can be a real problem when evidence comes in, objections can be made. Such as a hearsay objection. When representing yourself, you wave the right to appeal these issues.
JM says he doesn't know whether NS will want a jury trial, but if so there are rules to asking questions of potential jurors known as Voir Dire, a way to determine whether a juror is or isn't bias.

There are also tactical decisions that are made by an experienced attorney, without this experience, he may suffer adverse consequences by appearing pro se or representing himself.

JM tells NS if convicted you can't go back and appeal because of mistakes you made, representing yourself is a bad idea. At this point JM returns to questioning NS:
JM- Do you understand the effectiveness of defense is diminished by the dual roll, the judge is not giving legal advice, no special consideration or extra time?
NS- I do to a certain extent.

JM- Understand there is no library time other than under the rules of the sheriff?
NS- Yes, I do.

JM- Understand there are defenses that exist in regards to certain charges?
NS- Yes, I do.

JM-In the event there is a conviction, there are matters during sentencing, such a aggravating and mitigating circumstances, if not raised can result in a longer sentence?
NS- Yes

JM No changing mind in the middle of a trial?

JM- Do you understand this case may be tried before the murder case and things brought forth may be used against you in the murder trial?
NS -Understands

JM- States he is very concerned about NS representing self. Stand by counsel may not be appointed.
NS- Understands

JM- Are you still willing to represent yourself in light of all that?
NS- Correct

JM- Do you think it would be helpful to discuss with Harrell about representation?
NS- I would hear what he has to say.

At this point Harrell turns to Sheley and they talk for less than 2 minutes.

NS- I want to continue on... represent self.
JM- Mr. Harrell filed a motion with the court that is adverse to you.
JAMES HARRELL- In the capital case we also had this issue. We have a fitness report that states NS lacks the mental capacity to wave the right to counsel.

JM- Court has read motion and cases. Says something to Pepmeyer I didn't catch but Pepmeyer responds.

JOHN PEPMEYER-people would like extra time to respond, perhaps dispose the expert.
1.) Expert see NS again.
2.) evidentiary hearing

NS- In regards to Mr. Harrell's motion there were two separate Dr. found I was....(digging through a pile of papers in an expansion folder)....can't find it.
JM- admonishes NS not to refer to .....
JOHN PEPMEYER- We don't have an opinion, need 7-10 days to file a motion.

NS- I can't find report that he says....competent to raise....
JM- 2 weeks then?

JAMES HARRELL- I'm ready to proceed from Hanlon....court appointed. Mr. Pepmeyer and Mr. Sheley have a copy of this report since it was filed.

JM- Asks Pepmeyer about case law (Lego?) that contradicts these 2 cases? Attribute delay to the defendant. Gives state 7 days to file response to motion.
NS- wants the opportunity to respond to that motion as well...(still digging through his papers)
JM- May 15 at 3 PM arguments and responses to motions. Court will rule from the bench at that time. Sheley will be brought back for the hearing. Tells NS he doesn't advise.....?

There is a move to admit an exhibit on Friday. I didn't note who made this move but it may have been Sheley about the paperwork he was digging for. He was examined by 2 Doctors, with 2 different conclusions. IIRC, In the other case there was more information to be given to the doctors. I guess we'll see on the 15th.
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