Motions will be heard today for three defendants charged with murder in connection with the August 1998 death of Carson City resident Sammy Resendiz.
If motions to dismiss based on lack of evidence and faulty investigation are not granted, today's hearing in Judge Michael Fondi's district courtroom will center on whether the charges are appropriate based on the evidence.
Julian Contreras, Lew Dutchy and Rocky Boice are scheduled to appear at 9 a.m. with defense attorneys Bill Maddox, Todd Young and Allison Joffee.
Seven more defendants are scheduled for similar hearings in April. All are charged with principle to murder with a deadly weapon, principle to battery with a deadly weapon, principle to burglary with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit battery with a deadly weapon.
Maddox, Contreras' defense attorney, said the thrust of these hearings is to "get the charges knocked down to second-degree murder."
He argues that it is a stretch to charge the defendants with premeditation, a condition which must be present in a first-degree murder conviction.
Through a practice called "bootstrapping," Maddox said, Nevada law allows that condition to be satisfied when it is proved the murder occurred in the commission of a violent robbery.
Hearings for Frederick Gene Fred, Sylvia Fred, Jaron Malone, Jessica Evans, Elvin Fred, Clint Malone and Michael Kizer are still pending. All defendants are between the ages of 16 and 25.
The charges stem from the beating of Resendiz and Carlos Lainez in a North Carson City motel room. Resendiz died of injuries which included broken bones and several severe blows to the head. Lainez was treated at Carson-Tahoe Hospital and released. Investigators suspect that the killing was motivated by a dispute earlier in the evening between rival gangs.
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.
At the time of his arraignment, Avila agreed to testify against the other defendants.
Scheduling conflicts have added to the length of the proceedings, a condition Maddox predicts may worsen if the cases are set to go to trial.