Murder charges split into three separate trials

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Ten defendants charged in the 1998 beating death of Sammy Resendiz will face charges in three separate trials, the first beginning in September 2001.

District Judge Michael Griffin divided the three groups Thursday.

He said a case of this size, with 10 defendants charged with second-degree murder, would suffer logistical complications in a cramped courtroom.

Defense attorneys argued against splitting the cases, saying it opens the defendants to incrimination. Statements defendants make against each other are not admissible when they are tried together.

"Simply based here on what the court sees in the courtroom, even in the absence of the defendants, the number involved is extraordinary," District Attorney Noel Waters said in seeking to separate the trials.

Defendants Clint Malone, 17, Rocky Boice Jr., 21, Frederick Fred, 20, and Lew Dutchy, 27, will face trial Sept. 11, 2001.

Julian Contreras, 18, and Jessica Evans, 22, are scheduled for an Oct. 30, 2001, trial.

Jaron Malone, 19, Elvin Fred, 18, Sylvia Fred, 20, and Michael Kizer, 17, are scheduled for trial Jan. 22, 2002.

The murder charges, leveled against all 10 defendants, are related to an Aug. 23, 1998 beating in a Carson motel room. Victim Sammy Resendiz, 25, died at a hospital a few hours later. He had several broken bones and head injuries. Investigators concluded he was beaten with blunt instruments.

The order of the defendants' trials was requested by Waters, who said he plans to prosecute "the more involved people first" in order to speed up the process.

In the case of a conviction in the first trial, because they are being charged as co-conspirators, defendants scheduled for later trials might be willing to agree to a guilty plea, Waters said. If the first trial results in an acquittal, the prosecution might drop the rest of the charges.

Defense attorneys objected to Waters' premise for the scheduling request.

"Trying to divine plea negotiations in the future is just guesswork," said Tod Young, Dutchy's attorney.

Griffin also said the possibility of publicity from the first trial disrupting the jury selection in later trials can be considered later.

Other concerns Griffin cited in his decision to separate the trials were due process for defendants, accommodating the public and press, and creating an atmosphere where less-culpable defendants might be found guilty by association.

Terry Boice, Rocky Boice's mother, said the move only makes the defense more difficult.

"They are talking about who is more culpable," she said. "But they are all charged the same.

"I'm real disappointed in our attorneys."

The trial date was originally scheduled for March, but was pushed back to allow for the Nevada Supreme Court to rule on an appeal.

Waters is challenging a decision by Judge Michael Fondi, who heard the case before his retirement, to lower the charges from first- to second-degree murder. Fondi ruled that "bootstrapping" a first-degree murder charge by alleging it was committed in the commission of a home-invasion robbery was unlawful.

Of the original 12 suspects, two pleaded guilty and received suspended sentences. Alejandro Avila pleaded guilty to gross misdemeanor conspiracy to commit murder, and David Moyle pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit battery with a deadly weapon.


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