An appeal in the case of 10 Carson City defendants accused in a 1998 murder could be decided by the state Supreme Court in the next few months. The court's decision will determine whether the suspects will face first- or second-degree charges at a March 13 trial.
Since being arrested shortly after 25-year-old Sammy Resendiz was killed in a Carson Street motel room, the defendants - ranging in age from 16 to 26 - have been wading through a series of appeals, scheduling conflicts and lower court appearances.
The latest legal issue, appealed to the state's high court by District Attorney Noel Waters, questions a decision by Judge Michael Fondi to lower the charges from first- to second-degree murder. The decision was made in February this year.
Fondi ruled that "bootstrapping" a first-degree murder charge by attempting to prove that it happened in the commission of a burglary violated the defendant's rights. Waters appealed, and the case has been waiting on a decision since.
When Fondi retired in August, the case was transferred to Judge Michael Griffin's courtroom. Tentative dates were set for Oct. 23, Nov. 16 and Nov. 17 for motions to be presented to Griffin. The trial was also set for three weeks starting March 13, 2001.
The process of hearing the appeal was started late last month by the high court.
Opening arguments will be sent to the court in writing by Oct. 20. That will be followed by answering briefs within 30 days and closing arguments 20 days after that. When all the paperwork is submitted to the court it can decide at any time.
If the court does not decide by early next year, the March trial date will be reset.
While waiting for trial, some defendants have traveled out of the area to go to school while others continue to work or pursue high school degrees. The list of accused includes: Michael Kizer, 16, Sylvia Fred, 19, Elvin Fred, 18, Lew Dutchy, 26, Jaron Malone, 19, Jessica Evans, 22, Frederick Fred, 20, Rocky Boice Jr., 21, Clinton Malone, 17, and Julian Contreras, 17.
Of the original 12 suspects arrested, two have pleaded guilty and received suspended sentences, Alejandro Avila, 23, pleaded guilty to gross misdemeanor conspiracy to commit murder and David Moyle, 20, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit battery with a deadly weapon. At the time of his arraignment, Avila agreed to testify against the other defendants.
Resendiz was a former member of the East Wood Tokers, a Carson City gang. Since his death, family members - and Indian community members - have said there has been a noticeable increase in gang presence on the streets near their South Carson homes.