A Carson City district judge on Monday denied a convicted killer's motion for a new trial.
Anthony Echols, 44, will return to Ely State Prison to serve out his sentence of two life terms without parole after failing to prove the jury which heard the case in 2003 was affected by derogatory comments and shows of emotion from the victim's survivors and friends.
Echols was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Rick Albrecht in 2000.
Judge Bill Maddox said Monday it was difficult for him to believe the only people to hear the remarks were four people close to Echols and that others in the courtroom at the same time denied hearing anything, including Echols' trial attorney, Tod Young.
"Mr. Young was closer to where the comments were coming from than the jury and he even said he didn't hear anything," Maddox said.
"I just don't believe it happened. I can't believe (that the jury heard comments), yet I didn't hear it or someone else didn't hear it."
Echol's stepfather Frank Carpenter, family friends Lori Britton and Judith Rask and cousin Debi Maher all testified to incidents in which Albrecht's family allegedly murmured loudly during court proceedings and made comments in the public restroom or in the smoking area when a juror was allegedly present.
In his testimony Friday, Carpenter said Albrecht's family stood outside the jury room intentionally speaking loudly about Echols. Maddox reaffirmed what Chief Deputy District Attorney Anne Langer has pointed out to Carpenter last week - the room to which he was referring was not for jurors. He also noted that though Carpenter said he could identify jurors from name tags, jurors in his courtroom do not wear name tags, Maddox said.
"I think that if (the jury) had heard something, they'd have brought it to my attention," he said. "The fact that not one of them brought any of this to my attention leads me to believe it didn't happen."
Echols's attorney, Richard Cornell, was unavailable for comment on whether he would appeal the verdict.
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