Court orders hearing in 5-year-old criminal appeal

Five years after he filed an appeal, the Nevada Supreme Court has ordered that Rome Richard Chacon get his day in court.

Chacon was convicted in Las Vegas in 1992 of burglary and murder. He filed a direct appeal and followed that with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in January 1995. At a hearing that year, his lawyer asked for a continuance and, according to the Supreme Court opinion, the district judge took the matter off the calendar indefinitely.

When his lawyer did nothing for two years, Chacon moved to fire him, which was granted. But then the district court denied his motion for a new lawyer even though it had originally granted him legal help.

The case has sat there since then, amid arguments over whether Chacon had missed deadlines, should get a state-appointed lawyer or not or whether he had abandoned the appeal.

"The original petition was timely filed, and petitioner is entitled to have it considered on the merits," the opinion states. "Accordingly, it appeared that petitioner had set forth issues of arguable merit and that he had no adequate remedy at law."

The opinion says the state even conceded that Chacon was entitled to have his 1995 petition heard in court.

And the high court ordered the district court to reconsider its earlier decision denying Chacon a lawyer. Finally, the high court panel of William Maupin, Miriam Shearing and Nancy Becker left the door open for Chacon to further appeal any adverse decisions by the district court.

In a separate case, the could ordered an evidentiary hearing on John Edward Bowen's habeas corpus petition. Bowen, imprisoned for theft, claims his lawyer told him there was "nothing I can do" when he asked for an appeal.

The case was remanded to district court for a hearing on whether the defense lawyer's performance was inadequate.


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