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


  1. For all of the coverage at katfishponders of this case starting with the most recent click on Nicholas Sheley under "Labels" on the right lower portion of this page. :)

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