Convicted murderer Elvik appeal awaits closing arguments

The family of murder victim William Gibson watched Thursday as courtroom proceedings closed in the effort of murderer Peter Elvik to win a new trial.

In the five years since Gibson was killed at the age of 63, his family has been working to recover from the loss - and praying his murderer stays behind bars.

Family members said although they understand the motivation behind Elvik's return to court to fight the first-degree murder and robbery convictions, seeing him still irks them.

"All his family cares about is seeing him (Peter)," widow June Gibson said. "It's understandable, but in the end justice will prevail and he will still be in prison."

No decision was made Thursday at the conclusion of the two-day hearing, pending written closing arguments by defense attorney Tom Michaelides and prosecutor Anne Langer. A decision by Judge Michael Griffin could be as long as 60 days away.

Elvik's argument is that court-appointed lawyers, and then their privately retained replacements, misrepresented him through a series of bad decisions, including:

- Not exploring a defense based on the influence of LSD on his actions.

- Inadequate efforts to have two separate confessions suppressed based on Elvik's age (14 at the time of the murder).

- Not seeking a change of venue because of publicity.

- Inadequate expert testimony during the critical guilt phase of the trial.

- Allowing Elvik to wear shackles in front of the jury.

William's daughter Melissa was also on hand. She watched as several witnesses testified on whether Peter admitted drug use at the time of his arrest and how he was presented (allegedly in shackles) to the jury during trial.

"Drugs or no drugs, it doesn't matter," she said.

Her father was killed with four shotgun blasts at the Carson gun range. Elvik stole his car after the killing and drove to Tustin, Calif., an Orange County suburb. That is where he was picked up by local police, interviewed and eventually brought back to Carson City to face trial.

Nearly two years later Elvik claimed self-defense, a theory that was rejected after little more than an hour of jury deliberation. With conviction and sentencing on both class A felonies, Elvik will not be eligible for parole until he is 64 years old.

Thursday's testimony brought out little not already introduced last week.

Michaelides and Langer sparred as they interviewed one of the original jurors, Elvik's original lawyers, Elvik's mother and grandfather, and Bailiff Bill Farris.

Elvik's mother testified her son admitted to her that he was under the influence of drugs.

"From the first day he told me he was on drugs," she said. She also said she consistently brought that fact up with lawyer Scott Freeman, but that he rejected its use, saying it would derail the defense. Freeman testified last week that Elvik had said he was not on LSD at the time of the killing.

James Jackson, then the public defender assigned to the case, also said the only thing Peter told him was that "all he had really done was marijuana."

The change of venue angle was tested Thursday, but Griffin made it clear that a defendant's effort to explore a change of venue before jury selection was irrelevant to the appeal.

Finally, Bailiff Farris testified that Elvik's security was tight because authorities had heard he was planning an escape. Still, courthouse procedure is to remove the schackles before the jury enters the courtroom.

"Our policy was to make sure all the jurors were in the (jury) room before he was allowed out of the car," he said. "There was no jury contact."


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