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 findings....one 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 today....report 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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  1. Thanks Legal Pub! This was a fast paced hearing. It seems to me if Sheley doesn't want Harrell for an attorney, he could ask for someone else to represent him. I know some private practice attorneys in this area do public defender work. I didn't attend the first 2 hearings on these new charges so I'm not sure if that was offered up. We'll see if the judge allows him to work pro se....he doesn't sound inclined to do so.

    On the murder charges Sheley had to accept Jim Harrell and Jeremy Karlin as counsel because (at the time)they were the only ones in the county who are members of the Capital Litigation Bar and Judge Stewart ruled they were providing above adequate counsel. Judge Stewart is also allowing an Attorney from Springfield, John Hanlon to assist the defense in the murder case.

  2. Katfish, I'm following the case and I really appreciate the time and effort you've put into attending hearings. Keep up the good work.