Monday, September 28, 2009

Nicholas Sheley Is Guilty On all 5 Counts For Jailhouse Incident!

This is day 3 of the battery trial for Nicholas T. Sheley, 30, Sterling, IL. Sheley has been charged with 3 counts of aggravated battery, 1 count of aggravated assault and 1 count of criminal damage to property for an alleged altercation at the Knox County jail on April 17, 2009.

Sheley has been awaiting trial in the Knox County jail since July 3, 2008 for the murder of Ronald Randall, 65, of Galesburg, IL. He is also charged in the deaths of seven other people in Illinois and Missouri stemming from an alleged killing spree in late June 2008. If convicted of Randall's murder Sheley will face the death penalty. That trial is tentatively scheduled for Summer of 2010.

The jury in the battery trial won't know anything about Sheley's criminal history, why he was being held in the county jail when the incident happened or the results of two mental health evaluations done in connection to the capital case unless the defense opens the door. Yesterday the state presented their entire case in chief before Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Stephen Mathers and rested their case at the end of the day.

The big question coming into today is will Nicholas Sheley testify? Before the trial started Sheley's defense attorney, Public Defender Jim Harrell argued unsuccessfully to prevent Sheley from testifying, he said that Sheley wasn't competent to keep from incriminating himself on the stand.

At 9:15 am, Sheley was brought into the courtroom with leather bindings on his ankles and hand cuffs on his wrists. He has on the same white long sleeve button down shirt over khaki pants again today; however, today his shirttail is hanging out. His hand cuffs are removed before the jury enters.

Judge Mathers enters the courtroom right after Sheley, but has us all remain seated. That is nice, we were up and down so much the last two days in court I thought my knees would give out. The seats in the courtroom gallery are very uncomfortable, they are wooden bucket seats from the 60s or 70s much like rows of old theatre seats and your knees are above your rump when settled in.....UGH!

Jim Harrell enters a motion to continue. He said that the defense prepared a subpoena yesterday for Sheriff's deputy Underwood, but had not been able to have it served.Mathers asked the state for their response.

Knox County States Attorney John Pepmeyer says the court calendar was specific about dates...we have subpoenaed all of our witnesses.

Judge Mathers tells the defense not having a witness subpoenaed is an invalid reason to continue the case- denied.

Mathers then addresses Nicholas Sheley. Mr. Sheley, you have the right to avoid testifying and incriminating yourself just as you have the right to speak as well. The jury has been admonished they are not to consider a defendant's failure to testify. He continues, often people choose not to testify and are found not guilty. This can be a tactical decision that is up to you. You can have a chance to speak to your attorney about testifying if you wish. Sheley must have declined speaking to his attorney because he said something to the guard who cuffed him and led him out of the courtroom. Jim Harrell tells the court they discussed it last night. Minutes later Sheley is brought back in and the cuffs were removed.

The jury was brought in at 9:30 am. The judge again admonishes the jury that the defense is under no obligation to present a case but they can. With that Harrell says, yes he will ask that Nicholas Sheley be sworn in. Sheley said loudly to Harrell, you asked if I made a decision and I said yes. My decision is not to testify. Well, that's a surprise ( or a moment of clarity for Sheley? or cold feet?). There were even several representatives of the Illinois Attorney General's office here today, I'm sure they wanted to hear what he had to say too. Judge Mathers tells the jury they will need to step out a moment. Harrell tells the judge there was a miscommunication between him and his client. The judge says he will admonish the jury again.

The jury is brought back in and once they are seated again, Judge Mathers asks Harrell if he wants to present any witnesses. Harrell says no. Judge Mathers explains to the jury a miscommunication occurred , that the defendant has no obligation to testify and nothing should be inferred from his not testifying. The jury has been told from the beginning the defense must do nothing because it is assumed the defendant has done nothing. Mathers then calls a recess, telling the jury they should fill up their coffee cups and may even get a second cup.

After the jury leaves, Mathers tells those in the gallery it will take 20 to 30 minutes to get the jury instructions finished. He asks Assistant State's Attorney Matt Kwacala's administrative assistant if she has clean and dirty copies of the instructions. She says yes. Everyone leaves the courtroom except the attorneys that are sitting in the gallery, a reporter and me.....and of course Sheley's security. The state, the defense and Sheley go over the instructions. As long as Sheley is in the courtroom I will stay.

Sheley is speaking to Harrell...."I asked you about this all last week!" he continued " you said it was taken care of ".

Either Harrell or one of the attorneys for the state said, " There are 33 instructions including verdict forms ".

Sheley started ranting at Harrell......" I hope your closing arguments are better prepared than the opening and the cross examination".

Sheley clears his throat and continues," If this is the courts idea of effective representation, it's no wonder the penitentiaries are so full".

" It appears 90% of the jury knows John Pepmeyer personally or one of the officers involved," continuing, "You can call that random sampling if you want".

Harrell seems to be ignoring Sheley, of course he and the state are working on the instructions while he rants....LOL....guess I didn't get down much about the instructions. Sorry.

Here is more that the defendant had to say, " No doubt you get what you pay for here. Nothing. Then again, when you get no opportunity to make a phone call to hire private counsel , what do you expect ? "

After that Sheley said, " It's a corrupt and crooked system, you can just forget your rights if they don't want you to have the rights they claim you have. It's bullshit."

Sheley expected the jury to come back with a guilty verdict, he said, " Everyone should be happy with a guilty verdict, that was the idea all along to get me out of Knox County. Nice to know my attorney helped in that cause, might as well have the title of state's attorney. No private attorney would have done the job you did."

Sheley then turned to a reporter and said, " Let's see if you can get it accurate in there this time around "."

Then he added, " This was the roast of Jim Harrell. Pretty Funny."

Moments later, as Sheley was being cuffed to go to the holding cell, he looked at one of the men I thought was a lawyer and said, "How you doing today? Representation at it's finest." I found out the man was a private investigator for the defense.

At 10:25 Sheley was brought back in, I notice Jim Harrell moves away a bit as Sheley's cuffs are removed. (Can't say that I blame him.) As Sheley sits down he says to Harrell, " Don't have to do the closing, not going to do any good any way."

The jury is brought back in at 10:28. Judge Mathers tells the jury they will hear the closing arguments, this is where the attorneys will tell you what they think the evidence has shown and then you will find out what the law is from me.

I will give you what I have in my notes of the closing arguments for both sides, please be aware that they aren't verbatim. The state will do 1 close first then the defense and because they have the burden the state gets a second closing argument.

Matt Kwacala stands at the podium to give the state's closing arguments.

Kwacala thanks the jury on behalf of the States Attorney's office for coming to court to perform their civic duty, doing so helps the legal system work. He continued, " this opening statement is a chance for our side to tell you what we feel the evidence presented in this case shows. From what I saw of the evidence and testimony, on April 17 Nicholas Sheley had a plan to hurt someone. He was the only person in the pod, so it had to be him that covered the camera and the window. He refused to respond when informed what would happen if he didn't do so."

Kwacala reminded the jury that they saw the on the video that even before Deputy Johnston got into the pod with the shield, the chair leg came flying out of the pod. Then another hit Johnston's shield and another hit Deputy Inman in the face after it deflected off Johnston's shield and yet another chair leg hit Jason Landers.
After all this, the only weapons taken into the pod were a taser and pepper spray, and the only weapon used was the taser after Sheley was advised it would be used if he didn't comply.

Deputy Cordle testified Sheley punched him in the face, and 72 hours later Sheley apologized to him. Why apologize if not guilty? The jury will have the pictures of the injuries on the officers.

Kwacala thinks the state has proven Mr. Sheley is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to all 5 charges and goes through each count. He finishes by telling the jury that Jim Harrell tried to raise some doubt by asking questions about testing done on the chair....CSI is a popular show but you don't need finger prints or DNA, you heard what you need here. Kwacala says he is confident they will return a guilty verdict, thanks the jury and sits down.

Jim Harrell gives his closing statement from his seat at the defense table. Here it is:

When selected to be on the jury we talked to you about inconsistencies. I told you officers would tell you stories with inconsistencies. Harrell comments he noticed a few of the jury has used their notepads, he tells them to check...McGruder testified Stewart Inman was behind Landers but now they say he was hit when the pipe deflected off the shield. Johnston and Landers said they were going around the table. Harrell says he didn't see anyone yell on the video.

This was 6 men with a shield and stun gun ganging up like a football team who went into his cell ( NS holds up 7 fingers to the he disputing the count of officers ? hmmm or just using a visual aid) ....Harrell continues.... like the Dallas Cowboy frontline. Landers testified it only took about 1 1/2 minutes to take Mr. Sheley down, I would think so with a taser. I would think not, you saw his size. (I think he is implying Landers is about the size of a front lineman and didn't need the taser.) Harrell then poses a series of questions and comments that seem to imply the scene was staged:

Where are the papers that are alleged were on the camera and windows? Why didn't you see those?

Go back and listen to the tape and think what you heard in and out of the pod.

What I'm saying is...6 different stories.

Why no DNA testing on the chair?

Who testified they saw Nicholas Sheley take the chair apart?

Why just throw legs? Why not beat the tar out of one of them?

The judge has a role, the state has a role, and I have a role, Nicholas Sheley has no role. If you don't like me, don't hold it against him.

They stormed that cell... because he did what.... failed to do what? Let me could he hide 4 chair legs in those boxer shorts....they didn't see those legs when they looked in the chuck hole...they were not seen by those officers...dissect your notes....there is clearly and unequivocally reasonable doubt.

Matt Kwacala steps back up to the podium for his second close.

Folks use common sense. What orders did Nicholas Sheley get? Take down the paper, he refused, he baited them. He had 4 chair legs and was going to hurt someone.

Mr. Harrell didn't see NS cover the camera??? He must have been watching a different video than us. You saw the video, after they removed the paper did you see any retribution or beating? They didn't even tase him until he had already hurt 3 officers. Mr. Sheley is guilty.

Judge Mathers says court will reconvene at 11:05 (8 minutes), telling the jury he knew they hadn't been out there long but after this short break they receive a lot of legal information.

Sheley is cuffed and led out of the court room. When he is brought back in a few minutes later he says to no one in particular....In all the surveys of judges, Mr. Mathers is rated the lowest in Knox County. (Whatever, Sheley must have thought Harrell did ok on his close so now he will turn on the judge.) No one responds.

The jury is brought back in at 11:08 and Judge Mathers reads the jury instructions to them. Sheley is watching the jury, he looks around the gallery and then takes a drink before staring off. I will spare us all the 33 instructions, they were all basic instructions. The jury takes the instructions with them as they are excused to deliberate at 11:30. The judge calls 2 jurors back and tells them they were alternates and are excused.

After the alternates leave, Jim Harrell tells the judge that even though he made a motion for directed verdict at the close of the state's case he usually does so again at the close of his case. He wanted to be certain it is noted for the record.
John Pepmeyer addresses the court, he says that he would remit the jury review all of the evidence, the chair frame, chair legs, chair seat (I may not have mentioned this steel frame seat was folded like a taco.) and if the jury request it, the video. Judge Mathers says lets deal with that if we get a request.

Jim Harrell has a few concerns, does the jury know they can send a note out if the want evidence? He also has concerns about them having the jagged items in the small jury room for security reasons, adding if anyone was hurt it would be on the county. Secondly he doesn't want any reenactments being done.

John Pepmeyer responds the jurors are adults. Judge Mathers responds F1,F2,F3 (chair parts) will not go back. Mathers then tells the gallery that they will let us know when the jury takes it's lunch.

At 12:10 the bailiff comes to the court clerk. The jury has a question. The judge, attorneys, court reporter and Sheley go into the witness room off the courtroom. They are back out 2 minutes later.

The jury takes lunch from 12:30 to 1:30. At 1 :37 the jury has another question and the same procedure as above takes place. This time when Sheley comes out of the holding cell his shirt sleeves are pushed up and he appears to be sweating. It must be warm in that holding cell...that or he is stressed...most likely both. They are back out in 2 minutes again.

I ask Shirley Pringle (KCVRA) if she knows what the questions were, she says no, it is on a need to know basis. I think it has more to do with the jury being able to hear discussion in the courtroom. This is an old building and the jury room is just on the other side of the door.

At 2:19 there is another question, this time when Sheley comes out his sleeves are up and his shirt is open, showing his wife beater shirt underneath. Evidently they have decided to address the jury in the courtroom on this question, so Sheley steps out and comes back with his shirt buttoned up... the deputy removes his cuffs.

The jury is brought in at 2:35. Mathers expresses confusion as to their question, he says the jury wondered what it should do if they couldn't reach a unanimous agreement on count 2- the aggravated battery against deputy Scott Cordle-whom Sheley is accused of punching in the face. Mathers tells the jury the answer to that is in the proposition instruction 1 of the jury instructions. The jury had a second part to their question-if they can't reach a verdict on count 2 does that mean all the counts are not valid? Judge Mathers instructs the jury that each count stands alone and they must return to reach a unanimous verdict on each count. the jury returned to deliberate further at 2:40.

At 3:30 we were notified there was a verdict. Harrell takes a seat against the gallery rail several chair lengths from Sheley. The law enforcement officers have kept a low profile throughout the proceedings, but now they surround Sheley. Sheley comments to Harrell, "I can move over a little more if it makes you more secure." Harrell ignores him.

The jury files back in. There seems to be a larger group of people who are sitting in for the verdict. As the court clerk reads the verdict of guilty on each of the 5 counts Nicholas Sheley remains quiet and taps his thumbs on his right hand on his chair and is tapping his left fingers on the table.

Kwacala addresses the court. he moves for the bond to be revoked and a pre-sentence investigation be done.
October 30 is set for sentencing.

Here is a rundown of the charges and the possible penalties:

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.

At an earlier hearing, Knox County Circuit Court Judge Dwayne Morrison told Sheley
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. So from my calculations that would be a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 14 years that Sheley is facing

Morrison also informed 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. He will be gone for a long time if not forever. While I try to keep my personal feelings to myself for the most part, I say good riddance!

Day two

Day one
Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nicholas Sheley Battery Trial, Day Two.

The case in brief
Nicholas Sheley, 30, of Sterling, IL is accused of going on a two-week killing spree, in late June 2008, that left 8 people dead in 2 states. Sheley has been held in the Knox County jail since July 3, 2008, awaiting trial on charges in the beating death of Ronald Randall, 65, Galesburg, IL. He faces the death penalty if convicted. That trial is expected to be held in the summer of 2010.

Sheley was indicted on three counts of aggravated battery and one count each of aggravated assault and criminal damage to property stemming from an incident at the Knox County jail on April 17, 2009. The indictment accuses Sheley of attacking correctional officers with the metal legs he took off a chair in a maximum security day area and punching a sheriff’s Deputy in the face. That is what this trial is about.

Before jury selection began on Monday September 21, Nicholas Sheley’s public defender, Jim Harrell, argued a motion which would bar Sheley from testifying on his own behalf. Harrell said Sheley could not intellectually or knowingly waive his right to testify or agree to testify without incriminating himself in his capital murder case. He based this on a psychological evaluation done by Dr. Hanlon in the capital case. Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Stephen Mathers denied the motion and said it was up to Sheley whether he testifies or not. The rest of the day was spent in voir dire of 47 potential jurors before finding 9 women and 5 men who were qualified to sit on the jury.

" The First Day of Testimony"
Tuesday, September 22

I get to the courtroom about a half hour early today. Right after I take my normal seat in the second row behind the prosecution table, the Assistant States Attorney, Matt Kwacala comes in and arranges some paperwork at the state's table. Kwacala and State's Attorney John Pepmeyer will share the task of prosecuting this case.

You can feel the nervous tension in the room today, even though the state seems to have a strong case against Sheley, the vibe is different from the pre-trial hearings. Some men in suits are standing around. After I look closer I realize these are some of the Sheriff's deputies who normally escort Sheley to court, they clean up pretty well, but I wonder who is escorting Sheley today.

A uniformed Galesburg Police Officer comes in and speaks to Matt Kwacala. He is pushing a cart with what looks like evidence bags on it. They speak a bit and then Kwacala pushes the cart over to the side of his table which happens to be close to my seat. When Sheley's attorney, Public Defender Jim Harrell, comes in Kwacala waves him over and shows him the evidence cart. I hear him say one of the sealed paper sacks has the chair legs, one has the chair seat and he points out the chair frame sitting next to the cart on the floor with a tag on it. He also shows Harrell a few clear bags with CD's from jail security cameras in them and one with a screw from the chair. Harrell doesn't say much, he just goes over to the defense table and puts down some paperwork.

Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Mathers comes in and discusses logistics with Harrell, Kwacala and the court reporter. There is a large approximately 52" flat screen TV on a cart against the wall across from the jury box. They are making sure the podium and court reporter's seat won't block the jury's view of the TV. Looks like we are good to go.

At 9:05 Sheley is brought into the courtroom. He is wearing the same khaki pants as yesterday but has a white long sleeve button down shirt today. I wonder if these clothes are courtesy of his attorney, it's obvious by the creases the shirt today and yesterday were fresh from a package. He has white socks and the orange jail issue sandals on along with leather strap type shackles. One of the deputies in a suit takes the handcuffs off Sheley and takes a seat on a wooden chair right behind Sheley. It's unclear at this point if the security has on suits today because they are testifying or if it is just to "de-emphasis" the amount of security so as not to prejudice the jury.

Judge Mathers calls court to order and asks if there is anything before the jury is brought in. Jim Harrell says he would like to renew the motion to fund a survey for a change of venue motion previously filed. Mathers acts a bit confused at first as to why Harrell would even bring this up and then says, "Motions duly noted, but a jury has been seated." I look back in my notes, when the motion was originally made and denied Harrell asked to renew after trial started. He must just want to get it on the record.

Mathers tells the bailiff to bring in the jury. The jury is sworn in by the clerk at 9:10 am. Judge Mathers then explains the stages of a trial to the jury. The stages are: jury selection, opening arguments, evidence presented through testimony and exhibits, closing arguments, the jury is given the law (jury instructions) and then they deliberate. Mathers adds that the opening statements allow both parties to tell the jury what they think the evidence will show. Like a road map, you can get a feel for where we are going but these statements are not evidence. Mathers tells the state they may start.

Matt Kwacala moves up to the podium and gives the opening for the state. After introducing himself and Pepmeyer he tells the jury that on April 17, 2009 Nicholas Sheley was an inmate at the Knox County Law Enforcement Center. Sheley was staying in a pod that had 4 cells and a common day room. Sheley was the only prisoner being housed in the A-max pod on that day. (What he didn't tell the jury was Sheley was being held in solitary after previously attacking prisoners on several occasions or the reason Sheley is in the county jail.)

Kwacala continued that just before 2 pm on that day correction's officer Wesley McGruder noticed the camera in A-max pod used for monitoring the pod had been obscured. McGruder notified superiors who sent a deputy to check a window to the pod and found the window was covered with newspaper from the inside. There was an attempt to contact Sheley through the intercom but they received no response. Deputies then gathered in the hallway outside the pod and the chuck hole in the door(used to pass food trays into pod) was unlocked. Deputy Stewart Inman looked into the chuck hole and saw Sheley crouched down without a shirt on. Inman ordered Sheley to go to his cell and again received no response.

The officers decided they must follow protocol and enter the pod get Sheley back to his cell. They have to be able to monitor the pods for the safety of the inmates and the officers. As the door opens Sheley stands up and throws a metal chair leg at the officers. The first officer to enter, deputy Michael Johnston, had a shield so when Sheley threw another leg at him it deflected off the shield and hit deputy Inman who was next coming in. After Sheley threw the last 2 chair legs, Johnston was able to pin Sheley against the wall with the shield.
(My notes on the opening statements don't include anything about Jason Landers, he was also struck by a chair leg and his arm was badly bruised. I think I just missed writing it down because one of the aggravated battery charges is for that allegation so I'm sure he was mentioned. Landers also carried the taser into the pod and fired at Sheley, but the leads hit Johnston's shield so it wasn't effective. Landers then handed the taser over to Captain David Caslin.) Sheley continued to struggle and punched deputy Scott Cordle in the face with his fist. After Sheley was dry tasered once by Captain Caslin, he complied. Kwacala told the jury they will see the chair legs from the chair inside the pod. The jury will see the chair and the state feels certain they will find Sheley guilty.

Jim Harrell then begins the opening statement for the defense from his seat at the defense table. Harrell tells the jury the defense has a different theory from the state. The testimony will be from corrections officers....officers who all punch the same time clock, and take their breaks together.
Harrell continues, as you take this journey, ask yourselves do all the pieces fit? We contend there are pieces missing. The officers will have basically the same story, remember they all work together. He tells the jury they may hear from Mr. Sheley and reminds them they promised to listen to all the evidence and not give more weight to the testimony of the officers just because they wear a badge.

Judge Mathers tells the jury the state will now present their case in chief. With that Matt Kwacala says the state will call Galesburg police officer, Sargent Paul Van Achen.

Jim Harrell asks the court to exclude the witnesses from the courtroom. Mathers says granted and about a half dozen people leave the courtroom and go to a room across the hall.

It was very hard to get down all of the questions and answers exactly because things move so fast. I will just give a summary for each of the state's witnesses direct questioning and cross by defense. Six of the witnesses were in the pod during the incident and so their testimony is pretty similar. Here we go:

Witness #1 Galesburg Police Department (GPD) Sergeant Paul Van Achen (sp)
Direct- Van Achen testified he is in charge of preserving the chain of custody and storing evidence for the GPD and the Knox County Sheriff's Office (KCSO). Evidence is brought to him by officers involved in a given case, already sealed in a bag and tagged. His job is to verify the information on the tag and put the evidence in an evidence locker or property room( if too large for a locker) until it is brought to court. There are only 3 people with access to the evidence storage. Kwacala shows Van Achen each of the evidence bags to verify they have not been breached, identify who tagged the evidence and when it was brought to the evidence storage. Kwacala then has him open the evidence bags one by one to identify the contents and put them back in the evidence bags.

Cross- Harrell asked if there was powder on the chair legs? Van Achen says the bags were sealed when he got them so he couldn't say. Harrell asked if the tags indicate the evidence was sent to a crime lab or had any testing. Van Achen says no. Sheley and Harrell whisper back and forth during this questioning.

Witness#2 Knox County Corrections Officer Wesley McGruder
Direct- John Pepmeyer handled the state's questioning of McGruder, who testified he works the control room where he monitors the cameras in the pods, hallways, library, kitchen and outside. McGruder described his recollection of the incident that day, he was the first to notice the camera was blocked in A max pod, he testified after trying to contact Sheley via intercom he notified Stewart Inman. McGruder testified he eventually switched places with someone and joined the others in the hall and was the last to enter the pod during the incident. Because he was the last to enter he was in the position to see most of the incident.

Cross- Jim Harrell questioned McGruder as to why he left the control room [found a replacement]. Did he have to hold a button down to speak to Sheley on the intercom? [yes] Could he see Sheley? [no] How many corrections officers entered the pod? [6] What weapons did they have? [one had a taser] What is a taser? [McGruder had a little problem describing a taser] Did they have pepper spray? [no]
Harrell seemed to spend a lot of time on the cross of McGruder. The way he questioned McGruder seemed to imply that Sheley couldn't hear them ordering him to his cell and that they stormed the pod without cause. McGruder is a young guy and very nervous while testifying, I felt sorry for him.

Re-direct- Pepmeyer's questions clarified McGruder wasn't certified to use the taser, he didn't see anyone using pepper spray on Sheley and he left the control room because it was part of his job to assist and ensure the safety of the inmates.

At this point Judge Mathers told the jury we would take a break. He admonished the jury not to discuss the case at all. After the jury leaves the courtroom Jim Harrell asked the judge if some order had been signed. Mathers said, "We are in recess Mr. Harrell" after saying that Mathers got up and left the courtroom. I didn't note the time we were recessed but we were told to be back at 10 am. Sheley was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom to a holding cell.

At 9:55 Sheley was brought back in and the cuffs were removed. Judge Mathers called court to order at 10 and the jury was brought back in.

Witness#3 Knox County Sheriff's Deputy Stewart Inman
Direct- Inman told Matt Kwacala he is a federal transport deputy and he also transports prisoners for the county. He has been doing this job for 7 years, prior to that he was with the US Marshall for 27 years.( Inman has been one of the officers accompanying Sheley to court every hearing) In response to questions from Kwacala, Inman testified on April 17 after he was alerted to the situation in A-max pod by McGruder he went to the pod and saw that the window had also been covered with newspaper. Inman then notified Sergeant Scott Cordle and they both went to the patrol section of the building and notified Captain David Caslin then went back to the A-max pod to wait for orders.

When Caslin came with Johnston and Landers, Caslin tried to communicate with Sheley through the door but got no response. Inman said he unlocked the chuck hole and looked in the pod, he could see Sheley crouched down in the common area wearing just boxers. Again he tried to communicate with Sheley and got no response. Sheley was advised if he didn't comply they would come in. Inman's testimony was consistent with Kwacala's opening . Inman identified state's evidence F1, F2, and F3 as the legs seat and frame to the chair that was used by Sheley. He also identified pictures C1 and C2 of the injuries he sustained to his face. Inman’s direct testimony was concluded by telling the court he saw Scott Cordle get punched in the face by Sheley, but didn't see any of the other's injuries until after Sheley was subdued because they were all behind him.

Cross- James Harrell’s questions of Inman about his actions that day as though trying to identify inconsistencies. The tone of the defense cross seems to imply that Sheley was provoked. It seems as though Sheley keeps feeding Harrell questions he wants him to ask. Harrell asks where Inman was standing when he was hit? [by the door] Were there officers around Sheley ? [ Inman says Sheley was on the other side of the picnic table.] Harrell waits as Sheley is piddling with some papers for a good minute prompting the judge to ask,” are you done?” Harrell said that’s it.

Re-direct- Kwacala asks had anyone touched Mr. Sheley when Inman was hit? Inman says no.

Witness # 4 Knox County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Johnston
Direct- John Pepmeyer conducted the direct examination of Deputy Johnston, in response to questions by Pepmeyer, Johnston said he was directed by Captain Caslin to come over to the jail side of the Knox County Law Enforcement Center about 2:00 on April 17. Caslin told him they were having a problem with an inmate. Johnston testified that Caslin told Sheley to remove the covering from the camera and the window and return to his cell or they would have to enter and subdue him, if he resisted he would be tasered. Sheley didn’t respond so they entered the pod. Johnston said he entered the A-max pod first because he has training to use the Knox County jail protective shield. He described the shield as a 2x4 concave plastic shield with “SHERIFF” in large letters across the front. The proper use of the shield is to close the subject and pin to the wall.

Johnston said when the door opened a chair leg came flying at him. He said he yelled, “Sheriff’s Department, get down, get down, get down.” Another leg hit the shield and then the door, he could hear the ping of the metal hitting metal. Sheley was standing on the other side of the table. When they went around the table another leg hit his shield and after he saw Sheley throw the last leg he pushed him against the wall with the shield, then Sheley squatted. Johnston said he didn’t see anyone else being hit because he was in front and his concentration was on getting control of a still struggling Sheley. Johnston testified the next thing he remembers seeing was Captain Caslin approach with the taser already suspended. Caslin was warning Sheley if he didn’t comply he would be stunned, Sheley didn’t comply so he was stunned on the stomach area.

Cross- Harrell kept the cross of Johnston short. He wanted to know if anything was thrown when they first entered. After Johnston said 2 legs, Harrell asked in a surprised tone, “and you still proceeded?” Johnston replied,“ After the 4th leg I pinned him with the shield. There were a few other questions that Johnston couldn’t answer because they concerned people who were behind him.

Witness #5 Knox County Sergeant Scott Cordle
Matt Kwacala questioned Sergeant Cordle. Cordle’s testimony was consistent with the testimony of the previous witnesses. A few points that were remarkable in his testimony was that he was out of uniform that day because he was in covering a vacation for Carpenter who wears casual clothes in his position. Cordle said he has had previous contact with Sheley while in uniform so it wasn‘t as if Sheley didn‘t know him. He said Sheley looked him straight in the eye and punched him in the face. Kwacala had Cordle identify state’s evidence # D1and D2 which were pictures of his nose and upper lip taken after the incident. Sergeant Cordle also testified Sheley was on a 72 hour lock down after the incident. He said he escorted Sheley to the shower where Sheley apologized to Cordle, something to the effect of you took the brunt of it.

Cross- Harrell asked Cordle if he was rushing Sheley when he was punched in face? Cordle said no I was still. Harrell asked was he pinned when he struck you? Cordle said no he was standing.
Sheley was speaking to Harrell in a very animated manner from where I was sitting all I could here was the last 2 words,” THAT”S BULLSHIT!” I later found out that he was scolding Harrell for ending the cross-examination without asking the questions that Sheley had requested, citing 15 different inconsistencies that, he said, Harrell should have noted.
The judge was telling the jury court would recess until 1:15 for lunch when Sheley was chewing out Harrell and they were seated further away than me, so I don’t think they heard.
Sheley was brought back into the courtroom at 1:20. I notice he won’t make eye contact with Harrell. At 1:24 court is back in session. The people called Deputy Dennis Davison.

Witness #6 Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy Dennis Davison
John Pepmeyer examines Deputy Davison. He establishes that Davison was not involved in the incident. Davison gathered the evidence from the pod after the incident. Pepmeyer questioned whether the chair parts were inside a cell. Davison said yes, A-max pod. He turned the evidence over to Sergeant Jason Landers of Investigations.

Cross- Harrell questions whether Davison tested the chair pieces for fingerprints or hair. Davison said no to both. He asks were all the chair parts found in side the cell? Was one leg outside the door? Davison responded three pieces were inside and one outside the door. Harrell says so what you said on direct was incorrect?

Re-direct- Pepmeyer asked Davison did you put the chair in the evidence vault? Davison gave to Sergeant Jason Landers who placed bags on the chair legs because they were sharp.

Pepmeyer calls Sargeant Jason Landers.

Witness # 7 Knox County Sergeant Jason Landers
Direct- John Pepmeyer continued the direct examination with Sergeant Landers. Once again Lander's testimony was similar to the other law enforcement so I won't repeat it all, but will note a few things about his testimony. Jason Landers wasn't in uniform but he did have his badge on his belt. Landers testified he had the taser gun going in, but gave to Captain Caslin after it failed to stun Sheley and helped to physically restrain Sheley. Landers explained once a taser is deployed it can be reloaded or used as a dry taser, making contact directly with the target. He said after Sheley was pinned down and Caslin dry tased him, Sheley said, "I'm done!" and allowed the shackles to be put on. Landers identified states evidence A2-A7 as pictures of his injuries. Pepmeyer had all of the states evidence except the video tapes from the jail admitted through Jason Landers's testimony because he was responsible for photographing, bagging and tagging the evidence and turning it over to Sergeant Paul Van Achen of the Galesburg Police department.

Cross- Jim Harrell went through all of the photo exhibits of the A-max pod, cameras and hallway before questioning Landers on the sequence of events during the incident and after. IMO, the most interesting question he asked Landers was where was the evidence kept between the incident on 4/17 and when it was turned over to GPD on 4/21. Landers said it was in a locker at the Sheriff's office. Only Sheriff, Clague, Captain Caslin and the investigators had access during that time.

Re-direct- Pepmeyer asked if there was any difference in the evidence from the day he took it to the GPD and now. Landers replied, it was sealed when I turned it over.

Judge Mathers calls a 15 minute break. Court back in session at 2:50. Matt Kwacala calls the last witness of the state's case, Captain David Caslin.

Witness # 8 Knox County Sheriff's department Captain David Caslin
Direct- Caslin is 2nd in command of the Knox County Sheriff's office who oversees the courthouse, jail, patrol and investigations. Kwacala had Caslin go through the events on the day of 4/17. Kwacala asked Caslin to put a price on the chair that Sheley is accused of destroying. he said about $50.00. Kwacala asked some logistical questions about surveillance. Caslin explained there are 32 cameras throughout the jail, all motion sensitive. From the control room 4 monitors can be watched at a time. The Sheriff, Captain and Lt. Carpenter's offices are routed to watch through DVR and are recorded.

Caslin explained that he burned a DVD from A-max pod and the hallway on 4/17. The DVD was admitted as people's G. The prosecutors started showing the DVD on the big screen TV with Caslin narrating until Harrell objected to the narration. Judge mathers sustained the objection so we watched the video in silence. The video starts with Nicholas Sheley coming out of his cell fully dressed into the dayroom and going directly to the camera and covering it. Most of the video was of the correction officers in the hallway before they entered the pod and after cleaning out Sheley's cell. Besides the shot of Sheley covering the camera the most damning part in my mind was when they opened the door to the A-max pod and a chair leg came flying out before they even entered. So much for self defense. Geesh!

The state rested their case. The judge dismissed the jury at 4:00 and advised to return at 9:30 tomorrow morning. After the jury leaves Harrell makes a motion for a directed verdict. (Which means the state has failed to prove their case.) The judge denies the motion. Harrell then asked if the state could be sure that Deputy Underwood will be here tomorrow? The state responds it's not on them to have him here. The state had Underwood on their witness list but decided not to use him. Evidently Harrell didn't subpoena Underwood because he thought the state would have him here. oops. Court is recessed until 9:15 tomorrow morning. Wednesday, September 23. Stay was quite a day! Sphere: Related Content

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jury Seated In Sheley Battery Case, Testimony begins Tuesday, September 22-UPDATED

UPDATE 9/23 Nicholas Sheley found GUILTY on all 5 counts in Battery trial! I will post an in-depth entry about the trial tonight or tomorrow.

Today, Monday September 21, was the first day of the trial for Nicholas Sheley on the charges related to an alleged incident at the Knox County jail. Sheley was indicted on three counts of aggravated battery and one count each of aggravated assault and criminal damage to property stemming from an incident at the Knox County jail on April 17, 2009. The indictment accuses Sheley of attacking correctional officers with the metal legs he took off a chair in a maximum security day area and punching a sheriff’s Deputy in the face.

Sheley has been incarcerated in the Knox County jail, awaiting trial since July 2008 for the bludgeoning death of Ronald Randall of Galesburg. That trial is expected to be held in Summer 2010.

I was in the courtroom from 9am until after 6 pm today. The day started out with Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Stephen Mathers handling a few other cases before Sheley. Because it was such a long day with a lot of repetition, I will just touch on the highlights of the day.

Sheley appeared in court for the first time since his arrest in July 2008 without the orange jailhouse scrubs. Today he wore a blue button-down shirt and khaki pants with white socks and jail issue sandals. He wore his readers most of the day as well.. I noticed they give Sheley only the guts of the pen to write with, I guess I hadn’t noticed that before because his hands have been shackled.

Before jury selection began, Sheley’s public defender, Jim Harrell, argued a motion which would bar Sheley from testifying on his own behalf. Harrell said Sheley could not intellectually or knowingly waive his right to testify or agree to testify without incriminating himself in his capital murder case. Judge Mathers denied the motion and said it was up to Sheley whether he testifies or not.

I mentioned in my last Sheley entry, after Sheley had to be forcibly removed from the courtroom after an outburst, there was concern if Sheley would be shackled during the trial. The solution they came up with seems fair to all. Before potential jurors entered the courtroom for questioning, Sheley’s hand-cuffs were removed. His legs stayed bound with a belt-like device and both of the tables where the Defense and the State sat had table skirts to hide restraints and prevent jury bias.

Forty-seven jurors were questioned in groups of six about their familiarity with Sheley and their ability to be fair and impartial, particularly given what they may have heard. A panel of 14 jurors made up of 9 women and 5 men were qualified to serve on the jury.
Testimony will start Tuesday morning at 9 am. The prosecution has eight people on its witness list who may testify during the trial. The trial is expected to go a day or two. Judge Mathers said the panel can deliberate into Wednesday evening if they wished. More tomorrow! Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sheley Forcibly Removed From Courtroom, Motion to Represent Self Denied, Battery Trial Starts September 21

Jury selection will start on September 21 in the battery trial of Nicholas Sheley, 30, of Sterling, IL. Sheley was indicted on three counts of aggravated battery and one count each of aggravated assault and criminal damage to property stemming from an incident at the Knox County jail on April 17, 2009. The indictment accuses Sheley of attacking correctional officers with the metal legs he took off a chair in a maximum security day area and punching a sheriff’s Deputy in the face.

The accused spree killer, Sheley has been held in the Knox County jail since July 3, 2008, awaiting trial for 17 charges in connection to the beating death of Ronald Randall, 65, Galesburg. He faces the death penalty if convicted. The trial is expected to be held in the summer of 2010. He is also accused of killing five other people in Whiteside County, Il and an Arkansas couple who were killed while visiting in Missouri. All eight were killed in late June 2008.

The last week has been a busy time for accused spree killer Nicholas Sheley.
During a pre-trial hearing on September 8, Sheley told Knox County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Mathers he wants to fire his attorney, Public Defender Jim Harrell, and represent himself in the upcoming battery trial. At the same hearing Harrell filed a motion to extend the discovery period which was denied. Sheley complained he hasn’t been able to consult a private attorney because of a gag order imposed from the capital case. Harrell also cited the gag order limited his access to his client. Mathers told them both to file the proper motions and he would consider them. For more on that hearing click here.

According to Susan Kaufman of the Galesburg Register-Mail, Sheley appeared in Knox County Circuit Court Monday morning, September 14, to present his motion to fire his court-appointed attorney and represent himself in the upcoming battery trial. The hearing was scheduled Friday afternoon, September 11, after Judge Stephen Mathers viewed several motions filed by Sheley and his attorney, Jim Harrell.
I didn’t attend Monday’s hearing because it was so last minute I didn’t know about it. I was contacted Monday night about the hearing on Tuesday morning, September 15, which I did attend and will give an “in the courtroom report". First, I will give you some highlights Susan Kaufman reported about the hearing Monday.

Mathers said it was important Sheley understand the disadvantages of self-representation including being unprepared to make tactical decisions, not knowing to make objections to inadmissible evidence and receiving no special treatment or consideration. Mathers also cited Sheley’s lack of legal experience.“There is a difference between stupid and ignorant,” Mathers explained to Sheley. “Ignorant is lacking the experience. Stupid is having the knowledge and not using it. I do think you are ignorant and inexperienced.”Mathers plans to review two court competency exams that were ordered in Sheley’s capital murder case. Sheley had wanted to represent himself in that case but eventually withdrew the motion. At issue is not whether Sheley is competent to stand trial but rather his ability to represent himself. Assistant Attorney General Mike Atterberry, who entered his appearance as co-counsel in the battery case for the first time, said it was the
state’s position that Sheley is using tactics to try to delay the trial scheduled to begin Sept. 21.

In other rulings Monday, Mathers agreed to bar the jury in the battery case from hearing why Sheley was incarcerated when the alleged jail incident took place. The jury also will not be told about Sheley’s prior “bad acts” and convictions older than 10 years unless Sheley decides to take the stand. Sheley again told the court that due to the imposed gag order in his capital case, he had not been allowed to consult with a private attorney without the presence of Harrell. Mathers ruled that Sheley may consult a private attorney in his
battery case without Harrell’s presence. That ruling does not affect the capital case.

Mathers said he would make his ruling on Sheley’s self-representation motion on Tuesday.

There was much more said in Monday’s hearing that I learned in court Tuesday and I‘ll include that with my “in the courtroom report.” Have you ever watched “Disorder in the Court” with Ashley Banfield on TruTv?
Let’s just say Tuesday’s hearing at times felt like an episode of “Disorder In the Court". Here we go…….

I want to start this entry off with a big thank-you to Mr. Katfish for being so sweet. Today is his birthday and instead of making him a nice breakfast as planned, I’m getting ready to go to court. When I came out from getting ready he had made me the nice breakfast….what a guy!

I arrived at the courthouse at 8:45 am, the hearing starts at 9:15, so I have plenty of time. I’m a little caught off guard when going through security. The two guards (sheriff’s deputies or bailiffs, I’m not sure what their titles are, but they are definitely sheriff employees) were in a great mood and said, “Well, it’s nice to see you here this morning”. They are always polite but not usually so friendly, it was rather nice. I headed up the two flights of stairs with a little extra spring in my step. My morning is certainly off to a good start.

When I enter the courtroom the only people here are the family of Ronald Randall. As I have said before they are always the first ones here for court and sit in the front row behind the prosecution. They are here to represent “Ronnie” and they are a testament to what a great dad, brother, friend that he was. I’m sure that he is proud of them too.

I take a seat in the row behind the family and say hello. We chit chat for a minute and Shirley Pringle comes in and joins them. Shirley is the Knox County Victims Rights Advocate. A little before 9:00 Jim Harrell comes in the courtroom and lays some papers out on the judge’s bench and the table for the state. He sets his other paperwork down at the defense table and leaves again. At 9:05 the court reporter comes in from the Judge’s chamber followed by Judge Mathers without his robe. Shirley Pringle says “all rise” and we all pop up. Judge Mathers chuckles and says, “No, It’s the uniform you salute not the man.” The court reporter tells Shirley, “Oh , I thought that was for me.” We all laugh as she takes her seat in front of us next to the bench. The Judge arranges some papers on the bench and then goes back in chambers.

At 9:10 two bailiffs come in followed by the Jail Administrator, who takes his normal seat on the defense side against the wall. One of the family and I make eye contact, when he is here that means Sheley is in the building. The Sheriff, David Clague comes in right behind him and sits behind me. Jim Harrell comes back in the courtroom where he stands at the defense table and reviews some paperwork. There are 3 accredited press here. The seats in the front row behind the defense table is reserved for the press. Harrell’s administrative assistant comes in and sits down next to one of the press, awww I notice she looks to be about 5 or 6 months pregnant. She was a cheerleader with one of my nieces. I always thought she was a nice girl, even though I don’t remember her name.

The Assistant States Attorney, Matt Kwacala comes in, acknowledges Randall’s family then takes his seat in front of us. At 9:11 Sheley is brought into the courtroom. He is fully shackled with his jail issued orange scrubs and rubber sandals. His hair is about an inch long and no hair on his face today. He has his expansion folder again and is carrying his readers. Sheley seems to have an air of confidence today that I don’t think I have seen before….or is it cockiness? I heard he was allowed to speak in court quite a bit yesterday, that may have something to do with his attitude today. Sheley and Harrell both remain standing which is unusual. Sheley is saying something to Harrell, I can’t hear what he says from here. Harrell goes and picks back up the papers he sat on the bench earlier handing them to Sheley saying something about received yesterday and responses to motions. They are still standing. I take a head count and there is 8 security officers in here, half of whom are within arms distance of Sheley.

At 9:15 Judge Mathers comes in (this time in robes). Harrell and Sheley take their seats when everyone else sits back down. Mathers said that court is reconvened, as a result of arguments heard yesterday concerning the defendants motion to represent himself pro se. He also says he has the people’s response to the defendant’s motion, but as he just received it, he won’t consider it but will make it a part of the record. Kwacala tells the judge they wrote it up last night. He was out of town Friday and the first he saw the defendant’s motion was Monday. Even though they discussed the state’s position yesterday in court, he thought he should make a formal response.

Judge Mathers is looking around on his desk. He say he saw some orders there a few minutes ago….kind of looking around. Harrell speaks up and says that Sheley wanted to see them first.
The conversation starts bouncing around at this point so I will indicate who is speaking by their initials.
Judge Mathers = JM, Matt Kwacala = MK, Nicholas Sheley = NS, Jim Harrell = JH.
JM- Is there any housekeeping that needs taken care of?
NS- I don’t believe so your honor. I was wondering if you could inquire about the state’s opinion on a change of venue?
JM- That has nothing to do with the motion being considered.

Judge Mathers went on to speak about case law regarding a defendant representing himself but to be honest, it didn’t seem like he finished a single thought. It was like he was reviewing it in his own mind but talking out loud. I wasn’t the only one confused here. LOL

Mathers said that in Sheley’s motion, sealed because of the gag order in the capital murder case, Sheley said that he wanted to represent himself because he and Harrell had a conflict of interest and ineffectiveness of counsel, saying Harrell “put things off until the last minute” and “ often would not return phone calls promptly”. Mathers said that Sheley’s motion contained a lot of conclusions, but no examples and very few facts to support his claims.

In his ruling, Mathers said he could find no basis for a conflict of interest. Concerning ineffectiveness of counsel he couldn’t find evidence to back up Sheley’s claims only conclusions.
Sheley concludes Harrell “put things off ” but offered no examples. Mathers told Sheley that everyone has to prioritize their work
Sheley concludes appointed counsel “doesn’t go through strategies with him“, but gives no specifics so the court can make no such findings.
Sheley concludes Harrell “often would not return phone calls promptly”. Mathers tells Sheley, “you may have left messages and he didn’t respond when you thought he should, but you alone can’t just determine what is reasonable or not.”

I look at Sheley, he is smiling….I don’t think he is happy though.

Judge Mathers says when he considered Sheley’s motion he also considered two competency exams performed last year on Sheley in his capital murder case.

At this point Mathers doing that again, where he didn’t finish his thoughts like he was reviewing the information in his head but also talking out loud, so I just wrote it as he said it….he mentioned personality disorder, executive functions - decision making-problem solving, , distinct from the norm, grandiose belief in ones own ability, very little education, and an average IQ.

Both reports found Sheley had some memory impairment and an issue with anger and impulse control .
Mathers says something about Sheley’s education. He asked him yesterday and Sheley said he had a GED. Mathers says he asked what level of school did you actually complete and Sheley told him 8th grade.
Mathers then told Sheley he would be at an extreme disadvantage if allowed to represent himself because experienced attorneys could draw out damaging information that could be used against him in his capital case.

He continued addressing Sheley, “Why do you think all of a sudden Mr. Atterberry shows up yesterday from the Attorney General’s office and enters himself as co-counsel for the first time and has no issues with self representation?” Then Mathers answers his own question….because they know they can goad or incite a statement from you that could cause you problems down the road. He tells Sheley he doesn’t know much about Sheley’s other case, but after reading the reports from Drs. Killian and Hanlon he knows there are also murder charges elsewhere.

Mathers says the right to represent oneself is an important right and if improperly denied can be reversed. He said, “ I don’t do this lightly, the stakes are so high in the 08 case he must consider this case with the same standards…..broken thoughts again….psych reports, anger impulse, doesn’t have the caliper of experience to represent self.

I look at Sheley, he isn’t smiling anymore and his right leg is shaking….yep he is not happy.

The judge tells the court there are some other motions to rule on but he has a case he needs to attend to that should take about 20 minutes….a foreclosure.

During the break I go over and ask the reporter from Whiteside County if the trial for Joshua Sheley ( Nick’s brother) is still starting on September 23rd . Joshua Sheley faces two charges: concealing a homicidal death, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and obstructing justice, which carries a prison term of up to 6 years. Joshua will be the first person to go to trial in connection with the death of 93-year-old Russell Reed, Sterling. Reed was the first victim in the 2008 killing spree. She says yes, but the first day they will be arguing motions to dismiss and motions to quash the arrest. The Whiteside County courthouse is in Morrison, IL. The trial is expected to last 3 days and starts at 8:30 am for those interested. You can read more on this case here.
During the recess in the hearing, Sheley had two verbal outbursts — one directed toward Assistant State’s Attorney Matt Kwacala. “Do you want to play T-Ball too?” Sheley loudly asked Kwacala, referencing an analogy Mathers made on Monday about Sheley’s lack of experience and education by comparing it to a child learning to play baseball. “I have the testicular fortitude to step up to the plate. Do you?” The officer closest to Sheley puts his hand on Sheley‘s shoulder and whispers something. Sheley shuts up for a minute then tells Kwacala “I had a dream of the big leagues.” Of course Kwacala ignored him.

Harrell starts to show Sheley a paper, I suppose the motions to be discussed after recess but Sheley won’t make eye contact…he just has that smirk. Sheley loudly tells Harrell, “I had no doubt how he would rule on my motion. I just had to prove to myself that a person’s rights don’t mean jack shit. The legal system is a joke,” Sheley continued. “That is why I don’t have respect for authority. I never have and I never will.”

At 10:00 court reconvenes. (I count 10 correctional officers in the courtroom.)
JM- There are still a few motions filed but not ruled.
MK- The state is ready to argue the motions.
JH- Just some housekeeping…order regarding pro se motion, court indicated the motion was denied, but I believe one portion was granted.
JM- Yes, I don’t have it in front of me but paragraph one was granted
JH- confirm ruling yesterday barring psych records from the trial, subject to the defense opening the door..
MK- Yes, if Defense opens the door
JM- granted
JH- Motion to dismiss grand jury indictment. The only case law I could find that was close to on point addressed prejudice and discrimination. I realize this usually applies to racial discrimination, but a poll/phone survey we had conducted in Knox County showed clearly there is prejudice and discrimination against our client. Of the 850 people who participated 76% knew of the case. 82% was reasonably aware, and 32% felt our client was most likely guilty.
JH-The reason we raise this issue is the grand jury would appear to be biased according to our poll. We have no info as to how the grand jury was selected.
MK- The state asks the motion be barred, not filed in a timely manner. Filed 9/11, first seen by state 9/14. Discovery deadline was 2 months ago.
MK- The poll is not applicable to this case. Questions were extrapolated for the 08 case, doesn’t address this case. The state provided evidence to the grand jury on this case only so the decision was made on this case alone. The case law Harrell quoted is not on point, it refers to racial discrimination.
JM- Motion denied.
JH- Motion for change of venue is not complete without affidavit for the poll. Motion for funding to have another poll done in reference to this case. If motion mot granted ask to renew motion at trial.
MK- motion based on polling information from 08 case. If comes up during voir dire of jury then renew.
JH- Just wanted to have before the court.
JM - Both motions go to fears about ability to pick an impartial jury. Motion denied. We can anticipate a lengthy jury selection, but I don’t think it means we can’t seat an impartial jury.
JH- ok
JM- I'm not trying to eliminate motions, just dealing with them ahead.

After Mathers handed down his ruling, Sheley, wearing arm and leg shackles, leaped out of his chair and began verbally assaulting the judge.“You’re a funny guy. Your rules are ridiculous. You’re stupid and ignorant and are full of false stupidity,” Sheley yelled before several correctional officers dragged him out of the courtroom with him dragging his chair. His yells could still be heard as he was being escorted down the elevator.Mathers told the court reporter to continue her transcription of Sheley’s rant.

If the trial kicks off as planned Monday, it might be a good idea to keep Sheley shackled for everyones safety. I hope they can do that after his outburst yesterday. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, September 14, 2009

Stacey Barker Heads Back To Court

This entry is an update on the Stacey Marie Barker murder case out of Lancaster, CA.. Stacey Barker is a 24 year old woman from Lancaster accused of suffocating her 18 month old daughter, Emma Leigh Barker, to death on March 18, 2009.

Stacey Barker initially told police Emma was abducted from her car in the parking lot of a Lancaster, CA park as they prepared to leave. She claimed she was knocked out by the kidnapper and woke up six hours later, several miles away at the Palmdale Park-n-Ride. Detectives said Barker had injuries consistent with a struggle, including bruises on her head and was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Authorities say Barker later admitted making up the abduction story and inflicting the wounds on herself. She said the little girl died accidentally, but the fear of being blamed caused her to panic and leave the girl's body near the freeway. Barker led police to Emma’s body 12 hours later, dumped in a grassy lot near the Golden State Freeway in Sylmar, CA.

On April 27 Barker was arrested and the charges filed against the young mother include murder, assault on a child causing death and child abuse. The complaint alleges that Barker willfully caused and permitted the child to be injured and harmed and that injury resulted in death.

After a two-day preliminary hearing, Judge Carlos A. Chung ruled on July 27 that he found probable cause to hold Stacey Barker over for trial in the murder of Emma. On August 10, Barker formally pled Not Guilty to all counts. She is being housed in the Century Regional Detention Facility in the city of Lynwood on $1 million bail.

For complete details from earlier coverage and links to media coverage click here.

A pre-trial hearing was held on September 9 at the Antelope Valley Courthouse with Judge Hayden Zackey presiding. Deputy District Attorney (DDA) S. Kelly Cromer represented the people and Stacey Barker was represented by Public Defender (PD), Roberto F. Dager. The details in this report on the hearing will come from postings by Tori and friends, Anurse and TheGoodTwin (TGT). They were kind enough to attend the hearing and share some details with us. While there wasn’t a lot accomplished in SB’s hearing it was a remarkable day in court for the girls.

This courtroom has 3 sections, in the middle there are 5 rows of about 10 seats behind the Attorneys and Defendants table and then 4 rows of 5 seats in each row on the sides. The bailiff will not let ANYONE sit in the front row of the middle section, those seats have to remain empty at all times. For some reason this is the rule in all the courtrooms at this courthouse, most likely because from the middle front row you are in touching distance of the attorneys and defendants.

Today the only people in court “for” Stacey Barker aka ”Smother Mother” seem to be her grandparents and boyfriend Brendan (BB). They are seated in the middle section in the second row, we were on the right side of the courtroom behind them, there is just a 2 foot aisle between the rows of seats so all they had to do was look to the right and they could see us. For some reason the grandparents seemed to look at us a lot, you could even say they were staring. We don’t know if they know who we are but it doesn’t matter, it was not us who did something wrong. Brendan kept fidgeting in his seat and playing with his hands, like he was checking to see if they were smelly. Which reminds me….

The judge had several cases ahead of SB, one of the people was a guy who sat right in front of us. He smelled so bad , we were about to lose it….nurse kept putting scented lotion on her hands and fanning to cover the smell. Maybe Brendan thought it was him that smelled when in fact it was this guy (nicknamed pig pen)...or his fingers smelled better than the aroma pig pen was putting off and he was trying to rid his nose of the odor…who knows… at any rate, if you should ever find yourself in this predicament, Tori learned from Sara on CSI that if you smile, it suppresses the gag reflex.

When SB was brought into the courtroom she had her hair pulled back in the front and the yellow jailhouse garb. She had makeup on and didn’t look as though she was in any type of distress today . SB barely acknowledged her grandparents. She gave a half smirk/smile to her boyfriend and flung that I don’t give a flying rats @ss attitude at TGT when she saw her. (They do know each other)

When it was SB’s turn the PD asked the judge to speak with him ex parte, He said something about some appointments. ( ex parte refers to motions, hearings or orders granted on the request of and for the benefit of one party only.) The courtroom was then cleared, the PD said it was ok for SB’s family to stay, but they left the courtroom too.

As we were leaving the courtroom there was a woman that sounded mad at the bailiff as she loudly complained, ”They said this was open to the public and now they kick us out.”

The girls nicknamed this lady “Braids“ or “Mystery Lady 2“. (If you have followed Tori’s prior courtroom reports, there is a Mystery Lady1 who didn’t attend today) Tori said Braids looked to be in her late 70‘s or early 80‘s. Of course her hair was gray, and she had about 50 small braids pinned up (like pinwheels) around her head, but it was very messy and looks like she doesn‘t take them down very often. Not surprising she was dressed like an old lady with a mid knee skirt, long socks, an “old lady“ shirt with a sweater. Tori wrote down the conversation she had with Braids in the hallway outside of the courtroom, so here that is…..

Because she was taking notes, I flat out asked her who she was reporting for? She told me that she had ulterior motives for sitting in on the trials. Then she asked was that Stacey Barker sitting there? She did not know SB and asked who was her family? She said something about her neighborhood.... and her son's middle name was Hayden, same as the Judges name...she was talking gibberish so I have no idea why she is there....even after talking with her! I know you are all scratching your heads reading this part….well, that is how we all felt after speaking with her...I wrote it just the way she said it. She was so loud in the courtroom but in the hall I struggled to hear her … maybe I wasn't paying attention because I was looking at her braids the whole time....LOL

(The girls commented about another defendant that they nicknamed Devil Dude. The following is what one of the girls wrote about this guy. I included the information about him, Pig Pen, and Braids so you would get a feel for the vibe at the courthouse, it is definitely not a pleasant place)

Devil dude was a very creepy guy covered in tattoos ( I love tattoos) but they were all over his bald head, on his face all over his hands and arms, he had a very evil look to him, his eyes were seriously creepy...He was brought in to the courtroom after we were all asked to clear the room...He was all shackled up, he had the handcuffs, the chain around his waist, and the bracelets around his ankles...There were I think like 3 or 4 guards in the room....I don’t know what he did, but as we were allowed back in the courtroom, he looked at everyone in the eyes, like he was getting a image of us in his head...He was just creepy, we all had shivers when he looked at us...

When we went back on the record in the courtroom Judge Zackey told the PD, Roberto Dager, that he needed to make all the reports available to the DDA, Kelly Cromer, before the next court date which is October 6.

The Judge then asked SB if the October date was ok with her and her reply blew me away…she said, “yeah, I’m not going anywhere”. Her tone sounded very sarcastic. She may have just been trying to be funny, but if so it didn’t work because the Judge told her, “I know that, but I have to ask you anyway because it has to do with the time and your right to a speedy trial.” He sounded sarcastic too. My impression of him is he is a cool judge. He has a certain manner, like it takes a lot to make him mad, not a jerk like some judges.. He is someone who I think would be a nice guy outside of court too.

So the date was set for her to come back and set a trial date for sometime within 60 days of the October 6 hearing. Court was recessed.
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Friday, September 11, 2009

Nicholas Sheley (Again) Wants To Represent Himself In The Alleged Jailhouse Assault

Nicholas Sheley is a 30 year old man from Sterling, IL accused of killing 8 people in a two-state killing spree in late June of 2008. Sheley has been held on a $10 million bond in the Knox County Jail, in Galesburg, IL since July 3, 2008, awaiting trial on murder charges. In Knox County he is charged with 17 counts, 10 of which are first-degree murder, for the death of Ronald Randall, 65, of Galesburg and faces the death penalty if convicted. The capital trial is tentatively set to be heard in Summer 2010.

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. Sheley was charged with three counts of aggravated battery and one count of criminal damage to property, all felony charges, and one count of aggravated assault, a misdemeanor.

If convicted of all or more than one of these 5 charges the penalty would not exceed the maximum of 2 of the most serious, which would be 14 years. Because these alleged crimes were committed while being held in a pretrial phase on other charges, the sentences would be served consecutively, whichever charges he is convicted of first would be served consecutive to the other offenses. Trial is set for September 21, 2009 in this case.

On Tuesday, September 8, a pretrial conference was held at the Knox County Courthouse in the Battery case. Unfortunately, I was sick and unable to attend the hearing so I won’t be giving an “in the courtroom” report. I do want to fill you in on this reportedly “lively” hearing with information from the online sites of the local paper, The Galesburg Register-Mail, and a local radio station, WGIL .

According to WGIL, Sheley asked Knox County Judge Stephen Mathers, if he could address the court. Mathers told him he could speak to the court only on matters that pertain to the motion hearing that was being conducted. Mathers said Sheley's defense counsel, Public defender James Harrell, filed the motion to extend the discovery period and that's why the hearing was being held.

The Register-Mail reports that Nicholas Sheley then read from a prepared statement,
“At this time, I’m going to challenge the effectiveness of my counsel.” Sheley went on to say he was dissatisfied with his counsel’s direction and wanted nothing to do with the motion considered at the conference, which was to delay the trial’s beginning to give the defense more time to look at the state’s evidence.“If my counsel makes an error, I suffer the blight, I do the time. I do not need a continuance,” said Sheley.

Harrell was attempting to gain more time to file motions and analyze the state’s evidence, which includes video footage of Sheley’s attack on jail guards. Harrell cited his limited access to his client due to a gag order that often keeps Sheley from making phone calls from the jail. A previously scheduled vacation in August also was brought up as a possible reason to postpone the trial.

Judge Mathers denied the continuance, saying he wouldn’t delay the battery trial for what amounts to “a wish list of possible motions.” Mathers added it has been nearly two months since the discovery deadline had been set and that things need to be taken care of.

“If I had the motions on the table, it would be one thing, but wishes and hopes are not sufficient,” he said. “Later, if you believe your access has been inhibited, then file something and I will read it. For now the trial will begin on September 21st.”

“Harrell’s being on vacation is not my problem,” Sheley told the courtroom after Mathers’ denial. “The delay attributed to me was not my fault. I want to go to trial. In light of my counsel’s ineffectiveness I wish to dismiss counsel and represent myself,” repeated Sheley, who said he reconsidered an earlier request he’d made, and later withdrew, about proceeding pro se after he was informed that he could still consult private counsel while representing himself.

During his first appearance with Harrell, Sheley told Knox County Circuit Judge Dwayne Morrison he wanted to act as his own lawyer in the battery case. On May 15, Sheley changed his mind and accepted Harrell’s counsel.

Mathers listened as Sheley read his two statements in court Tuesday. However, after he denied Harrell’s motion for a continuance and informed Sheley that his request was not related to the conference’s scheduled discussion, the judge said no more to Sheley’s “out of context” speeches. “No, sir. You already had your opportunity and weren’t particularly to the point then,” Mathers said.

Mathers repeated the advice he gave Harrell to Sheley.“File your motions in writing and I will read them,” said the judge. “If you want to retain private counsel, then file it. If you want to represent yourself, file it.”

Sheley said nothing else as he was led away by the eight sheriff’s department officials present in the otherwise almost empty courtroom according to Chris Mouzakitis of the Galesburg Register-Mail.
This is the third time that Nicholas Sheley has requested to represent himself in Knox County.
At a hearing for the murder case in September 2008, Sheley told the court he wanted to represent himself. He expressed his displeasure with his defense counsel, Public Defender James Harrell and court appointed co-counsel Jeremy Karlin, accusing the pair of “sophisticated fast-lawyer talk.” Sheley said they were not adhering to his wishes for a speedy trial and his wishes were being “blown off as unimportant.”

On September 19, 2008, Sheley filed a handwritten motion (sealed by the court) that said he and his lawyers have a conflict of interest, he accused them of ineffective counsel and dishonesty. Harrell and Karlin countered there was bonified doubt that Sheley was fit to stand trial and to wave his right to representation. The Judge ordered a fitness evaluation to be done of Sheley.

After evaluation by a court appointed doctor and a doctor hired by the defense, Sheley was found fit to stand trial but there was question as to his ability to represent himself.

On January 31, 2009 there was a hearing regarding the motion filed by Sheley in September. At this hearing Ninth Circuit Court Judge James Stewart ruled:

Regarding conflict of interest he finds there is no conflict.

Regarding ineffective counsel he rules there has been no ineffectiveness of counsel, all motions made have been appropriate and he feels as well that Mr. Sheley has been well represented. (I agree)

Regarding honesty, the court has been unable to find anytime that counsel has not been honest as far as intentional and knowing misrepresentation although there has been conflict regarding strategy it doesn’t rise to the legal definition.

After making his ruling Judge Stewart told Sheley if he still wanted to represent himself the court would schedule a hearing to determine his fitness to represent himself. After Sheley conferred with Harrell and Karlin for a few minutes, Karlin told the court that his client, Sheley, wished to withdraw all motions to remove his attorneys.

There is a hearing scheduled for September 29 to argue a motion filed by Sheley’s attorneys to dismiss 16 of the 17 counts Sheley is charged with in the death of Ronald Randall. Harrell and Karlin say in their motion that the wording in the indictment is too vague and therefore insufficient to charge Sheley. In the state’s response they say the defendant was properly indicted.

Katfishponders has possession of the motion to dismiss filed by the defense and the response to the motion filed by the state. I have to figure out how to convert them to PDF format so I can put them on Docstock before the hearing. Sphere: Related Content