Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nicholas Sheley Trial...Let's Get A Move On....August 12 and 25th Hearings

The last two weeks have been quite busy in Knox County, IL with preparation for the murder trial of 32 year old Nicholas T. Sheley. The last couple weeks have been busy for me as well, but not with blogging, so I find myself trying to catch up now.

The trial officially got started today with an orientation for the first group of approximately 100 prospective jurors this morning and a motion hearing this afternoon. I'll get to that in my next post, but first I want to talk about the hearings in preparation for the trial and share some pictures I had an opportunity to take after the final case management conference on August 12, 2011. There was also a hearing called to hear a defense motion about security issues for trial on Thursday, August 25.

August 12 hearing

From the beginning this looked like this could be one of the more interesting pre-trial hearings to date. I learned there would be some witnesses testifying on behalf of the state, one of those witnesses being Holly Sheley (Nicholas Sheley's wife).

When Sheley came into the courtroom I was somewhat surprised to see he had his hair spiked up and the makings of a strange little thin mustache and goatee started. He changes his look frequently but just a few weeks ago he was clean shaven and had a buzz cut....and I didn't know inmates had access to "gel". I think it's gel...if not gel maybe we don't want to know. (◐.̃◐) Of course he had his bright yellow prison jumpsuit (aka escape suit) and was fully shackled at the feet, wrist and waist. I had heard at a previous hearing (that I missed) it had been decided that his hands would be free when in front of the jury, but was a little taken aback when Judge Stewart ordered his waist and hand cuffs be removed today. Not really anything to worry about though, the guards that accompany him from the DOC are pretty fierce looking dudes and there are Knox County Sheriff deputies and court security as well.

To start off the hearing Jeremy Karlin was given packages from the Circuit Clerk that were return of subpoena's from several media outlets. Oh oh? What's next...Change of Venue Motion? Someone had left a comment here that this motion would be filed today, but no one I spoke with knew anything about it. As it turns out there was no COV motion....but the defense did request funds to take another phone survey in Knox County to see what the "climate" was towards his client because of pretrial publicity. ( The defense did an extensive phone survey, back in late 2008 early 2009 and requested a COV based on the results, at that time the judge denied without prejudice because it was too early in the case.)

Bill Elward, Assistant Attorney General objected, on behalf of the state, to another survey being done stating there has been practically no media given this case in 2011 and stated that jurors can know about a case but still be fair and impartial.

Karlin raised his eyebrows and pointed out the stack of responses from media the clerk had just given him as a response to Elward's claim of no media and cited Irwin V Dowd which is case law that basically states a potential juror who has been prejudiced by inflammatory media can't be trusted to be candid about their ability to be impartial in Voir Dire. Karlin  added there would be no harm or prejudice to the state, he is not asking for a Change of Venue....at this time (◔_◔) but was just trying to make a record.

Judge Stewart denied Karlin's request for a new survey. Stewart said that pretrial publicity doesn't mean a biased jury, adding if the defense had asked for this back in May or June he may have considered it, but we are now 2 weeks from trial and over 700 people have already been summoned. The motion is not timely
and under  Supreme Court Rules Voir Dire is the best way to determine if potential jurors have preformed opinions. Deny request, not timely.

( This wasn't said in court but should be noted, this untimeliness does not reflect on Jeremy Karlin; responsibility for that falls squarely in Nicholas Sheley's lap. Karlin was removed from the case on April 25 and reappointed to the case on July 19 because of Sheley's desire to represent himself (Pro Se). IMO, He is damn lucky the court let him have Jeremy Karlin back.....and that Karlin was willing to come back on. I also want to note the discussion about the survey came in at the end of the hearing but was more "fluid" to present it together here together with return of subpoena info.)

The next issue was a defense motion for individual jury sequestration during voir dire (questioning). Karlin argued  that questioning the jurors individually prevents spoiling the rest of the jurors if one should say something inflammatory or prejudicial concerning the other crimes in the alleged killing spree.The judge denied this request, individual voir dire would slow things down too much, they will be done in groups.
The discussion segued into preparation of the jury questionnaires and how they will be handled. Most of the preparation was done earlier by the attorneys from both parties. Today it was decided instead of mailing them out to prospective jurors, each day a group would be brought in for an indoctrination (basic facts of the case, admonitions about not watching any coverage of the case or talking to anyone about it, etc.) and then will be taken downstairs to the basement to fill out the questionnaires where they can be supervised so as not to collaborate and review the witness lists (this is a small county need to be sure not related to each other....just kidding....kinda LOL) and then they can leave for the day. The attorneys will review the questionnaires and the court will call back a number of them for the actual Voir Dire the next afternoon. (The next morning a new group will come in for indoctrination, etc....there are 4 groups available if needed to seat a jury.)

The defense has a motion to quash a video taped deposition because the transcript of the video wasn't signed. The state asked the court to look at the video adding they have the videographer here to certify the tape. Bill Elward told the judge this is vital relevant evidence, she waited on him, saw the video and verified it was accurate. He said the defense is being hyper-vigilant in wanting to quash because the transcript isn't signed. Jeremy Karlin made a comment, " Since we strolled into argument on this motion is it possible to address...(objections made during deposition)" Judge Stewart told him to wait until after the video is shown.

The reason for video taping the deposition was the witness was terminally ill and would not be alive by the time this case made it to trial.(Evidently she didn't live long enough to sign the transcript) This witness is a woman who waited on Sheley at the HyVee gas station on the evening of June 28, 2008. She "allegedly" sold Sheley a six pack of Bud-light, some cigarettes and a lighter at about 8:30 pm.  She could testify to Sheley having blood on his face and his hands. She noticed it mainly because his hands were shaking which prompted her to look closer at him.(This was allegedly right after Ronald Randall was killed and his body was thrown next to a dumpster behind the grocery store) In her deposition she pretty much narrated the in-store video of Sheley's transaction and identified him. She was cross examined by Jim Harrell (onetime lead defense) She didn't see the vehicle Sheley was in, but the Mobile station across the street picked it up on their video when Sheley drove Mr. Randall's truck into and left the parking lot at Hyvee gas. The Mobile video also captured Sheley when he stopped at that station for $3 of gas in the stolen van when he came into town off the interstate at 8 pm.
(observation...Sheley not looking at the video...reading papers, taking notes, twiddling thumbs)

After the video was shown Elward said the video is accurate and reliable...(which is why the witness would have signed the transcript ) and it's essential to the state's case. He then presented the court with the witness's death certificate (died 2 weeks after the deposition was taken).
Karlin countered that he stands on the motion. Supreme Court rule 414- rule 207. He again points out that objections were made contemporaneously and the court needs to address the objections.
Judge Stewart  said something about the entire subsection and scrivener rules (sometimes this judge talks fast and barely opens his mouth when he speaks so I have trouble catching all he says) the signing requirement is only to verify the statements. Stewart rules under the circumstances shown by the state and assuming a foundation is laid first at trial he will not prohibit the video.

sorry, couldn't resist
Court takes a ten minute break. When we come back Bill Elward calls a witness to the stand that installed the cameras at the Mobile station across from the HyVee station. After the witness is sworn in, Jeremy Karlin rises and says, " This isn't a dog and pony show" and asks the court, " Is it appropriate to use demonstrative exhibits when they still must lay a foundation during trial?"

Elward responds they should be able to refer to the digital video in opening statements.

 (JMO, I think that would be powerful to use the video showing Sheley coming into and leaving town in their opening statement.)

Judge Stewart says he is not prepared to make foundational rulings.
Karlin says he objects to this testimony, this hearing is about the evidence deposition. Stewart sustains Karlin's objection. Elward rose and interjected, " Can I say this witness is very ill and came here today."
Karlin says we are not here for this purpose and the judge agrees with Karlin. No witnesses today. Holly Sheley was supposed to testify that she saw a lot of blood in Randall's truck when Sheley returned to Sterling the night of June 28 and a man was here from RockIsland who owned the stolen truck Sheley allegedly drove here and the clothes Sheley had on in HyVee.

There was some other cryptic discussion between Michael Atterbury, for the state, and Jeremy Karlin, for the defense, about a state's motion for pretrial determination that should be a motion for clarification of course of conduct (prior bad acts)evidence. Karlin says this type of evidence is risky...we won't take a position, it's inappropriate as it comes in referencing inadmissible evidence in pleading and open court. We are not the ones bringing it up. Karlin addressing the court, " I think the state overstates your ruling". Atterbury says the motion is filed under seal and we are not using specifics.
Bill Elward rises and says something about a motion regarding post arrest statements made by Sheley. Elward says, this is a voluntary statement made by a fairly sophisticated defendant after his arrest. Allegedly Sheley said to an arresting officer, "Are you a Christian? I have done things...."
Judge Stewart says he will not make predeterminant rulings,  but will rule that is a voluntary statement.

Court is recessed........we thought until August 29 when jury selection started, but as I said above, a hearing was scheduled for August 25 at the last minute to hear a motion about security issues.

August 25 hearing
I won't go into great detail about this  hearing because all of that stuff is fluid and probably best left unsaid. In order to not prejudice the jury it was decided during trial Nicholas Sheley will wear dress clothing purchased by his attorney. Sheley's attorney wanted him to be totally unshackled but conceded to a stun band on his leg so he can approach the bench for side bars. The state wanted him shackled at the feet to a ring in the floor and either have the jury taken out for sidebars or have the sidebars near the defense table. The judge decided that he would be unshackled with the stun belt so he can approach on sidebars. He will be well guarded by officers in plain clothes and uniform....they will be everywhere! Stewart felt any other way would be too prejudicial, but admonished Sheley ANY behavior issues he will waive the lenient custody status and the jury would be advised of the custodial status change...so it's on Sheley.
After court was over,  I hung around in the parking lot with my camera until they brought Sheley out. These pictures are just one example of the security measures taken when transporting Sheley the 2 hours each way from Stateville.
Big Guy, Bigger Gun

coming out
with some of the big boys

Climbing into the cage for transport
Big Gun

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1 comment:

  1. Kat,
    They should have saved the tax payers some money...how much is ONE bullet?
    He does not even deserve a trial! POS